· By Jessica Defreitas
#OhhMoments: Allergy Momma Hiromi shares how her son Roman's eczema was the first indicator of a food allergy
In this week's #OhhMoments, Allergy Momma Hiromi shares her son Roman's story and discusses how eczema can often be an indicator of food allergies.
"My name is Hiromi Okuyama and my son, Roman has severe Food Allergies (as well as some environmental allergies). Roman is 4 years old and he is anaphylactic to Dairy, Wheat and Eggs.
Our family first noticed something going on with Roman when he was a baby. Just weeks after he was born, he had really bad eczema. His skin condition had worsened so we were referred to a Pediatric Dermatologist who helped Roman a lot. Because I was breastfeeding, I did try to eliminate things from my diet to see if that was affecting his skin. I believe this helped a bit too, although, we didn’t really know what he was allergic to or just how serious it was.
We decided to start solids with my son at around 5-6 months. I started with infant rice cereal because that is what I fed my oldest daughter a decade before, when she was a baby, which was the standard food to start with. He was eating okay, but it was my daughter that noticed something was off with him. My daughter said, “I don’t think he should be eating cereal anymore mommy, something doesn’t seem right.”
I called the local health hotline that provides information for new mothers. The nurse was incredible and explained how the new food guidelines changed. She said that babies, especially Breastfed babies, should start with iron rich foods like pureed or softened meats and vegetables. She also suggested soft fruit as well.
So our kitchen turned into a fun lab with all the pureed foods we could make and my son was thriving, his eczema was getting better and he continued to breastfeed but filled up on the foods we made for him. We noticed that his skin would get very sensitive still, like when we were out and if he touched a certain surface that we didn’t fully clean or if he was on a carpeted area or played with a toy another child just played with, sometimes he would break out in hives.
One time he was playing with a cup that my daughter was drinking out of, his skin had welts and hives all over that were so bad, we had to go to emergency. I did not know a lot about food allergies. I knew a lot about peanut and nut allergies but there wasn’t a lot of information on other severe food allergens.
I’m lactose intolerant so I thought my children may be as well. And usually yogurt and cheese is okay with me but not regular milk. At nine months, I decided to feed Roman a bit of cheese to add some dairy/calcium to his diet.
That’s when our whole lives completely changed. My son started coughing a bit and I didn’t know what was happening. Luckily my husband was home. We didn’t know if he was getting sick from something else. My husband suggested to give him a bath to calm him down and when I did, I noticed Roman swelling up like a red balloon. The weird thing was, he didn’t initially have hives like he would get prior and that’s when I called the Telehealth Ontario and they told us to go to the Hospital right away.
When we got to emergency Roman started to throw up while we were in line and that’s when his skin started to get hives which prompted the person registering us see the nurse and get us in right away. Note: if you think your child is showing signs of a food allergy reaction, call 911 and have an ambulance take you to the hospital right away.
The reason why I’m explaining this is, my husband and I didn’t know the signs of anaphylaxis or how serious it could be. And I learned over the years from so many informative sources as well as Food Allergy support groups, that every allergy attack can be different.
Symptoms and signs may differ each time. Another reason why I would like to share my son’s experience as a baby is that most new parents probably won’t know if their baby has food allergies. And I’m hoping my son’s story will help parents see the signs if it does happen to their baby and encourage them to go to the hospital right away.
Another interesting fact is, our Pediatric Allergist has mentioned that eczema and allergies can be related (please always talk to your doctor/specialist regarding this). Since that first, almost fatal reaction, we have learned from other scary instances, that Roman is also anaphylactic to wheat and egg.
It was hard for our family to adjust in the beginning, but we have also been so fortunate to have family that really supports us and is always careful about food around Roman. They even make special dishes for him all the time. We have terrific friends who always ask about snacks to bring for Roman for play dates. They are so sweet to even take photos while they are grocery shopping to make sure they buy the correct snacks for him.
Many programs we go to have been really careful as well, but for most type of programs, I am with Roman so I can see what is happening. I have not had any personally bad incidents like I heard other parents have had. The city I live in, Burlington, Ontario, our political representatives, seems to care and tries to help spread awareness of Food Allergies too.
A challenge for us is eating out and traveling. There are not a lot of places, especially around our area, to eat with food allergies. There are some great independent restaurants and bakeries which we are thankful for, but there isn’t a variety like I see in the USA. And going out with extended family or birthdays is hard. We have to pack everything for Roman and as he is getting older, I can tell he is feeling a bit left out.
When we travel, we usually have to find a place with a Kitchen so we can cook for Roman. We found that most Cruise lines are great with Food Allergies and Walt Disney World as well.
But as an allergy mom, I’m still always on edge. I worry about Roman’s future. When he grows up and becomes more independent. I worry about food bullying which is very real and happening all over North America and around the world. I also get so devastated when I hear of children who have died because of Food Allergies. It always affects Food Allergy families and community because it could happen to any of us.
I’m very thankful for organizations like Elijah-Alavi Foundation (#elijahsecho) to spread awareness of Food Allergies. It is devastating what happened to their family. Elijah-Alavi Silvera tragically died at 3 years old when a daycare worker gave him a grilled cheese sandwich and Elijah had a dairy allergy. In his memory, they started this foundation to help others, like my son, to spread awareness so that hopefully this will not happen again.
Elijah is the same age as my son and since the first time I heard of Elijah’s story (shortly after the tragedy), I have thought of him and his family daily.
Thank you Ohh! Foods for letting me tell my son’s story and to Brittany, the founder of Ohh! Foods, for having a vision to help others feel included through her life experience and her products." - Hiromi
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