Madeleine’s First Severe Reaction to Eggs
The call from my wife came after the kids’ usual bedtime. I was expecting a sweet “Goodnight Daddy” from Fletcher and Madeleine. Instead Allison’s voice crackled across a bad connection and poor 4G in the mountains, “Madeleine has hives all over her. What’s going on? What should I do?” It was about 9:30 on Friday night. They had traveled to the mountains to eat dinner with friends and prepare for ski lessons the next day. I could hear the strain and worry in her voice. A 3 hour drive away, I felt powerless while she described Madeleine’s first severe reaction to eggs.
Let me start by saying that I am a board-certified allergist and I’ve been taking care of kids and adults with food allergy for more than 10 years. My daughter’s case is unique (of course). While she had has had mild eczema throughout her childhood it has been easy to control and no food triggers were ever considered. However, about 1 year before this reaction she started to complain of ear pain after eating eggs sunny-side up. The pain was immediate, but there was no rash, no swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth and no other signs of allergic reaction. As well, I take pride in making breakfast for my kids most days. My son is pretty easy to dial in… He’s fine with a bowl of cereal and a side of fruit. On the other hand, Madeleine likes something different every morning – waffles, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal, bagel, sausage, fruit, etc. I’ve prepared and shared with her boiled eggs and scrambled eggs with no adverse reactions. I never know what she is going to want so we start working through this when she wakes up. Again, she never had an immediate reaction to any of these foods. However, for a week or two before the reaction in the mountains she had a few days of mild abdominal pain at school and had to leave early. At the time we were discussing a myriad of concerns – is she too young for first grade (she’s an August birthday), is she manipulating us, the teacher, the nanny, her friends or all of us. We were looking at our calendars to figure out a time to go to her pediatrician and discuss these worries. Then, I got the call and all of these pieces started to fit into the puzzle of my 6 year old daughter.
Let’s be clear. My wife is no whimp. She’s a physician and she has a PhD that she uses in her daily work. To hear the fear and helplessness of her call that evening was a humbling beginning. She and another doctor at dinner crushed up some Bendaryl, mixed in some lemonade and had Madeleine drink the slurry. Within minutes the hives started to taper and within a half hour the rash was gone. She was groggy from the medication and the excitement. Madeleine slept well that night, but Allison had another plan. She stayed up to download articles, burn the midnight oil, and to make herself both a detective and a medical expert on food allergies.
Two days later they returned from the mountains and she had theories and science to back her concerns that Madeleine reacted to a microscopic exposure to raw egg from her fork that was used to eat ceasar salad. Could it be? How could it be? Just that week I had eaten boiled eggs with Madeleine. Was the abdominal pain the same day? What color were my socks that day? I just couldn’t remember. How could I have missed this?