I know I haven't written much lately about food allergies or allergic reactions. Life's been busy, we've been food allergy healthy for a while, and I pretty much shelved food allergies on the back burner as we have enjoyed life with our kids. Yesterday I even decided to take the day off of work to spend with our two wee ones, in what was supposed to be a quiet, relaxing day at home. But then our quiet, relaxing day quickly turned into our worst fear. We watched with fear as our son swelled with hives all over his body as he was overcome with an unknown allergic reaction. We had no idea what he was reacting to.
The Unknown Allergic Reaction – The Scariest of All
Yesterday our son woke from a nap with hives under his arms and saying that bugs are biting him (his way of saying he itches). This was a new reaction for him, the hives that are, as he has never had them before. Since hives were the only symptom he had, and we didn't know if his reaction was caused by an environmental allergen, we gave him Benadryl and watched him closely as we sat down for dinner. Throughout dinner, we watched as his hives seemingly disappear before our eyes. He was no longer itching and went back to acting like a typical 3-year-old boy in no time.
He fell asleep early that night on the couch next to us, assuming from the Benadryl dose we gave him, as my husband and I sat and wracked our brains trying to figure out what he was reacting to.
Our son understands certain foods will make him sick, even possibly kill him, and he never takes food from anyone but my husband or I. He's very vocal that foods make him sick, and will shun anyone who pushes food on him. I'm a stay at home mom and our son (and daughter with food allergies) is with me all day long. I know he didn't eat anything that could make him sick.
Later that night as my husband and I headed to bed we decided to dose Mitch one more time with Benadryl, ‘just in case'. What we saw next shocked us. Ninety percent (90%) of Mitch's body was covered in hives. We took no chances and quickly dressed him and headed to the E.R.
But how do you treat an unknown allergic reaction? How do you describe what your child with allergies is reacting to when YOU don't even know what he is reacting to? Is this new unknown allergen strong enough to kill him? How do you avoid this unknown allergic reaction in the future?
Thanks to the help of the amazingly supportive doctors, nurses, allergists and my favorite food allergy mom's on social media (and yes, I called them all), we believe our son had a reaction to a new antibiotic he took the last week for a staph infection called Cephalexin. Apparently, you can have a reaction to antibiotic up to two weeks after stopping the medication, making it one of the hardest unknown allergic reactions to trace. Unfortunately, we'll never know if this was the actual cause because there is no allergy test for the medication Cephalexin.
Armed with a cocktail of Dexamethasone, Cetirizine, Diphenhydramine, and Albuterol (we discussed epinephrine, but since he was not having breathing difficulties we chose to treat with steroids), our son is slowly recovering from this allergic reaction. He has developed wheezing and a cough since leaving the hospital, but after raising his maintenance dose of Benadryl the hives have disappeared. We will never know if the Cephalexin caused his severe allergic reaction, but we will avoid this medication as a treatment option in the future.
Not knowing what was making our son sick was just as scary was the reaction itself. Even after his first dose of Dexamethasone he had a secondary, bi-phasic reaction and once again woke with hives covering his tiny body. What if the allergen was still in his environment? What if we were we doing something to cause the unknown allergic reaction and not making the connection between the events?