Despite my less than seamless segue yesterday from Easter to allergies, it should come as no surprise that I actually have a personal reason for addressing allergies this week. My 17 month old son, despite some oddities he must have inherited from his father’s side of the family, looks pretty much like a human child. Last week, before my eyes, and literally within minutes, he turned into an elephant-man boy (that’s a technical term.) We were at the cardiologist’s office when the area around his eyes started to inexplicably swell. He looked like a monster, the cardiologist was panicking and all I could think was, “Oh no. I’m not going to be able to keep a jar of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on the counter anymore.” When I finally got over the shock that my fifth and God-willing, final child was going to further complicate my life, I got the little eyesore some Benadryl. After three days behind closed doors, he was presentable enough for an egg hunt in public. We have an appointment with an allergist tomorrow. Who wants to bet me that he doesn’t find anything? I will be left avoiding every possible allergen and covering everything that doesn’t move in our house with organic plastic. Why is it that so many kids have food allergies? Your guess is as good as mine but here are a couple of theories.
1. Over-diagnosis – Usually, I would support this theory that doctors are simply diagnosing more food allergies and that hyper-aware parents are calling every red bump an allergic reaction. However, studies prove that while awareness and parental vigilance may play a small role, there is a very real increase in food allergy incidence.
2. The hygiene hypothesis – Are we simply too clean? Have all of our antibacterial efforts prevented children from being exposed to foreign bodies and thereby, prevented them from developing appropriate immune reactions? As I have said before, I support this theory if for no other reason than it gives me an excuse not to clean. I have always subscribed to the 5-second rule. When no one is looking, I’ll even stretch it out to the 10-second rule. This can explain why I will eat just about anything.
3. The crappy-food hypothesis – I made up the name for this one but I think it fits. Have all of the preservatives and additives we are taking in messed up our immune system’s normal ability to recognize the good from the bad?
4. Delayed weaning to solid foods – When she became a grandmother, my mom watched in awe as my sisters and I struggled through several months of sleepless nights with our newborns. “I don’t understand, ” she would say. “You girls were sleeping through the nights at 6 weeks old.” Bleary eyed and punchy, we would roll our eyes and “educate” her on all our generation was doing better, on all the horrors the previous generation inflicted on its offspring. “That’s because you shoved solid food into our mouths before we were able to properly digest. That’s because you filled us up to the gills with formula that was nothing like breast-milk. Your newborns were exhausted from the effort of digesting.” Funny, we did start solid foods at a now unheard of age, but I never had to bring in the list of ingredients with my school birthday snack.
5. Environmental pollutants – When in doubt, blame the environment.
I’m off to bed. I have to get some sleep before taking my baby to his appointment early tomorrow morning. I will need my energy to answer a bunch of dead-end questions and to hold the little monkey still while he gets poked and prodded. I hate doctors.