Dairy, dashing hopes

Six months ago, our littlest had an IgE blood test: one nurse took his blood, the other stood by in case he needed to pin him down. I covered my son’s eyes, she took blood; he flinched at the poke, didn’t move until it was done and when asked by the nurse if it hurt, he answered, “nope,” and looked at them as if to say, “what, is it supposed to hurt?” Turns out, he did far better than some adults they’ve seen.

The report came back, and it was negative for milk, which suggested that his chance of having an anaphylactic / severe allergic reaction to dairy was less than 25%. I was hopeful! After all, he had some accidental encounters with dairy a handful of times without severe reaction, but there’s the rub – his skin didn’t do as well, and reacted with the milk with the skin prick test . And, this is why you can’t rely on a blood test alone; that’s why an allergist has to consider the history of and individual (how they’ve responded to the allergen in the past) with a combination of tells before making a diagnosis.

When he finally weaned this summer, I happily jumped on the dairy bandwagon again – with a grilled cheese sandwich as the dairy product that I wanted to celebrate with first. Sadly, it was a variant of a jalapeno popper that wasn’t as satisfying as a grilled cheese would have been. A few weeks later, I noticed that the skin around my neck was starting to get red, patchy, and quite itchy at times; I’ve only had eczema around my neck once, and it was during my academic years, so I had figured it was stress induced.

Yet, it seemed to get better when I limited my dairy intake, but flared up again when I threw caution to the wind over the holidays. I suspect it just might be my body responding to the reintroduction to dairy as some foreign matter. The allergist, in brief conversation, asked me if I was allergic to milk as a child. Why yes, I had recently discovered that while I knew my mother didn’t know I was allergic to milk until much later — even though I was vomiting after having any, I didn’t realize that the doctor didn’t suggest this to her until I was almost 3 years old! (that might explain why I don’t like milk now, even though I like many other dairy products).

I expect that if a naturopath confirmed my food sensitivities, she might recommend avoiding the foods that trigger an autoimmune response. Yet, the allergist recommended that if it was only a skin response, that I shouldn’t eliminate it completely, because he had found in his experience that if children cut out the foods in their diet, and then came into exposure with it down the road, the reaction ends up being a lot worse than before. This is what I wanted to hear, I suppose, because that means I can still have dairy – but perhaps in moderation. My family doctor suspects it’s all related to the chronic skin conditions that I have elsewhere on my body, but I suppose one can never really know; all I know is that the skin is just a visible sign that something is awry with your autoimmune system – it might be your gut, might be something else inside

The allergist has given the green light to proceed with the oral challenge with the littlest next month, but in a hospital setting in case he needs treatment, so here’s to hoping …and praying – God knows what He’s doing!


  1. Dawner

    January 23, 2019 at 5:58 PM

    On the plus side, the increased popularity of dairy free foods have opened the door for more food choices and better tasting options/substitutions these days than 10 years ago. At least you have a lot of options.

    1. Emily

      January 24, 2019 at 9:33 PM

      That’s a good point – fake cheese and fake yogurt have improved a whole lot in taste and texture, and it’s not limited to only a handful of brands, which wasn’t the case just a few years ago!

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