When a new year starts, we hope things change for the better. Reviewing my daughter’s allergy blood test results this winter break was like going through Santa’s wish list and New Year’s resolutions combined. The fantasy versus the reality of what can actually be achieved when dealing with allergies.
The allergen-specific IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibody test is a blood test to diagnose and monitor allergies to substances such as food and environmental allergies.
Since our daughter’s first diagnosis of multiple allergies nearly 7 years ago, the newest culprit is cat and pet dander. Did I mention we’ve had a dog for quite some time? Foods are easy to give up when it is life threatening. But, our dog?
My daughter gave us the nice side eye. Without her saying a word, her allergist discussed what could be done in order to keep the dog. One less thing to give up helps. As kids mature, you have to love their sense of self advocacy and independence. It is an asset when you are raising a food allergic child who is forced to grow up fast. My daughter has learned to speak up, question foods and closely read labels to protect herself. More allergies mean more caution – the norm for us. But that didn’t stop my tears.
I held back the waterworks as we went down the non-wish list of food allergens. The same statement was repeated, “No change, continue strict avoidance.” The test shows class levels for every specific IgE. To us, these levels are really on the same playing field when it comes to a possible reaction.
Whether moderate or very high, there is still a risk of a reaction, including anaphylaxis – the most severe and fatal risk. Class levels are not a predictor of what could happen with the next bite of a food containing the smallest amount of an allergen, known or unknown. Or even cross contact with an allergen. It is that uncertainty that makes food allergies such a serious health matter.
I held back the waterworks in front of my daughter and managed to appear resolved. Resolved to accept more time, research and patience. Seven years seem like a long time but it has been most of her lifetime. The good news is allergy shots are possible for environmental allergies. This may take years of disciplined office visits. I only lasted 6 months; I still have allergies. But shots are just one part of the hope equation.
Medically administered options like OIT (oral immunology therapy) – tiny amounts of peanut flour; SLIT (sublingual immunotherapy) – peanut extract; and epicutaneous therapy – skin patch with small amounts of peanut protein – are among research studies underway at centers across the nation for peanut allergies, which are typically not outgrown. Although that is only one of the four allergies for my daughter, it is encouraging. A recent article in HuffPost from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute highlights these studies and Chinese Herbal Therapy, a clinical trial for multiple allergies. This kind of progress and increased philanthropic support is a major part of the equation, giving hope for treatments, and yes, one day a cure.
In the meantime, we’ll continue avoidance, remain hopeful for the future and for increased understanding about the seriousness of food allergies. For your 2015 resolutions, add our top allergy goals to your list. Help create a safe, fulfilling life for those with allergies and food allergies.