Overwhelmed..Need help reading labels

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by SnowAngel, May 3, 2008.

  1. SnowAngel

    SnowAngel New Member

    My son had allergy testing done. He is allergic to soy, peanuts, green beans, carrots, corn, shellfish and peanuts. I am completely overwhelmed on where to start. He is on 12 medications for allergies, asthma and depression. They are starting allergy shots next week in addition to his regular medications.

    Can anyone help direct me on where to find label reading help? I just found out Ritz crackers contain soy..what a life changing challenge this will be.
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You probably need to have a dietician on side. or possibly a paediatric immunologist as well.

    What sort of allergy testing was it? Some is reputable, some is not. Some is useful and reliable, some is not.

    I've had allergy testing done which involved skin prick tests. The ones which involve a skin prick plus putting the antigen on, then reading the test after a few minutes - they are looking for B cell problems. B cells are a type of white blood cell which can trigger anaphylactic-type histamine reactions - the B cells respond to antigens and trigger an immune response which at some point involves triggering mast cells to release histamine, which is what causes hives, swelling etc.

    A skin prick test which is read several days later - it's generally looking for a T-cell response. T-cells tend to not involve mast cells, they're more related to antibody reaction. When stimulated, T-cells can trigger a different immune cascade which involves activation of cytokines which can cause other symptoms of feeling unwell. Not generally life-threatening.

    Other allergy tests which are less likely to be a true reflection of true allergy status - blood test, hair test, pulse test.

    I remember having a fairly carefully done skin prick test looking for B-cell response, and according to the immunologist administering the test I was allergic to tomatoes. And yet - I've never had a problem with mouth (or any other part of me) swelling when I eat tomatoes. I DID tend to get a reaction to tomato plants, but only a vague itch when handling them. I WAS in the habit of eating a lot of tomatoes at the time, which I now think may have been the reason my immune system responded.

    So even a reputable test gave a false positive.

    You need to define the type of allergy by identifying what sort of reaction will ensue with exposure to each antigen. If anaphylaxis or urticaria is a response at all, then that antigen should be avoided and a warning placed on the child's file. A Me-alert bracelet is also a good idea. If there is any risk to the child's life, you may need to have an Epipen handy.

    Allergy shots - I presume you mean desensitisation shots? I think maybe a second opinion or more research may be beneficial. I've been advised that I may need to have my antibiotic allergies dealt with similarly, but I was also told that all this would do is buy me one more chance with each antibiotic; after that, desensitisation would no longer work. I would be asking, will the shots remove his allergy completely? And permanently? Then perhaps ask the same question on a medical site online, see what they say.

    If the food "allergies" are believed to be causing problems with his mood, his concentration (or other cognitive problems) then technically they are sensitivities, not allergies. The definitions I've been taught were that allergy involves histamine release. If histamine, mast cells and B-cells are not involved, then it is not allergy. Mind you, a lot of doctors are loose with their teminology and this can be confusing.

    To read labels - a dietician with access to your son's file is your best bet. Frankly, with a list of allergies as long as this, I think you need to go back to preparing all meals from your own raw ingredients. You could cook a stew, for example, and KNOW that there's nothing in it except beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, wheat (for the thickening) and maybe some fresh herbs from the garden.
    Things to avoid - just about all Chinese food (takeaway) because it is likely to be thickened with cornstarch and probably also contain soy. Thai food - generally contains peanuts as well as cornstarch and soy.

    Labels are a matter of practice. A dietician can advise you on which brands are safe. I can't help you there because even if the product is also available in Australia, formulations can change from state to state, let alone from one country to another. In the meantime - cook from scratch. It's safer. Go through your favourite recipes and pick out the ones which don't contain any problem ingredients. Any of your recipes that use pre-packaged ingredients, leave them out too (until you know whether they're safe or not). With some recipes, you should be able to leave out a problem ingredient or make a substitution. For example, you can thicken stews or stir-fries with wheaten flour instead of cornstarch. Or you can use arrowroot.

    A lot of pre-packaged whole meal foods use soy in various forms - watch out for it. "Textured Vegetable Protein" (aka TVP) is soy-based.

    You will also find that most fast food will be off your list. When going out, you will need to either make a meal on the spot (such as a salad sandwich, from bought salad ingredients) or bring something for him. McDonalds are likely to tell you exactly what is in their food, but you can't count on that everywhere. (but maybe it's better in your country?)

    Good luck with this one. I suspect some professional help (perhaps via a children's hospital?) is indicated here.

  3. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Hi Snow Angel. I know first hand what you are experiencing; I cried the first time I went to the grocery store after Duckie was diagnosis'd with severe allergies. It's horrifying to think your child could actually die because of an accidental ingestion of an offending food.

    Here's a link on what to look for on the labels:


    You also may want him to carry an epipen, as well as keep one at school. I found it easier to prepare Duckie's food wherever we went than risk a mistake happening. The good news is, though, that she is only borderline allergic to soy now for food allergies.
  4. SnowAngel

    SnowAngel New Member

    The shots are called Allergy Immunotherapy. The dr said they will be every week and then at some point tapper off to none at the end of 5 years.

    They did the prick test. His whole back was covered in welts within seconds of the pricks. He was still experiencing itching and welts with rash the next day. The test was read within 20 minutes of the test being done.

    I appreciate the advice and will start researching homestyle cooking recipes. The 2nd opinion was something I was thinking of. I want to know as much of the things he is allergic to. My son has missed half the school year due to being sick. He suffers from reflux,migraines,blody nose,coughing,wheezing,shortness of breath,vomiting,diarhea,constipation and severe gas..which according to the allergist it can be a result of his severe allergies.
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hi SnowAngel,
    I feel for you. We are still fighting that battle.
    The only way you can know for sure is to make everything from scratch at home. Especially don't buy any snack foods.
    And purchase bags that say, "gluten free" or otherwise have big markings on them. Otherwise, you may safely assume there are traces of everything in them.
    Peanuts are relatively easy to stay away from because there's so much publicity now and labeling is better. Soy is going to be difficult.
    When you cook at home, use a lot of chicken, rice and potatoes just to make life easier. You can expand from there.
    For snacks, make your own trail mix from bins at the grocery store. That way you don't have to worry about peanuts getting mixed in.
    Best of luck!
  6. SnowAngel

    SnowAngel New Member

    Thank you. This is overwhelming. I looked at my labels in my pantry and 95% of my food contains soy. I am looking up homemade recipes and will print them off to put in a notebook for handy use. I just feel bad that he has dealt with 11yrs of being sick. He was hospitalized 26 times before he was even 1. He gets pneumonia 3 times a year usually.

    Anything I have to adjust is well worth it. It may even help my high strung ADHD boys...oh one can hope :eek:)

    Thanks again. It is nice to see other parents with difficult child's helping the overwhelmed parents.
  7. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    corn is probably going to be the worst one to deal with. Many, many things are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, including a lot of beverages (sodas, sports drinks, etc.) candies and other sweets, cereal, etc.
    And eating out may be darn near impossible. For instance, a lot of pizza chains "dust" their pans with corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking.
    I had to go through this with my oldest son, but in his case, he was allergic to milk. And we couldn't do shots for the milk, he had to avoid it totally.
    We did do shots for the other allergies - grass, trees, weeds, dust mites and mold. Oldest was on shot every 2 weeks (after build up) from age 5 to 17, youngest from age 3 - 17. Now that they aren't quite as effected by taking OTC antihistimines, they have both chosen to go that route instead of shots.
  8. SnowAngel

    SnowAngel New Member

    Thank you for the corn info. I just looked that up and the list of foods to avoid is huge. They even listed the non-foods to include lotions,toothpaste,powder,shampoos and laundry items. Wow!! Do I have my work cut out for me.

    Funny thing is they had a list of possible symptoms from corn allergy..he had all of them but 1 and I mean all on a daily basis.

    You have no idea how much you all have helped to push me in the right direction