Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pat a cake, Pat a cake

Pat a cake, Pat a cake
Bakers man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Pat it and Prick it and mark it with a T
Then put it in the oven for Teddy and ...

“Chip!” Chip completes the rhyme excitedly. And then asks, “Does that cake have egg in it?” “No sweetie.”, I reply. “That’s a special cake. No eggs.”

Chip is allergic to egg. Both yolks and whites. It means that his body does not recognize the egg protein as a harmless food. It attacks the egg protein by releasing immunoglobulinE that cause certain histamines to be released in his blood, causing a severe reaction. He gets hives, his face and ears inflame, he itches, gets unbelievable stomach cramps and finally his body tries to get rid of the offensive substance by making him violently sick. When Chip was younger, he would also wheeze – his airways would get inflamed as well. Fortunately egg allergies rarely result in an anaphylactic shock – something that nut allergies can snowball into.

For Chip, the tiniest amount of egg causes a severe reaction. (For differences between intolerance and allergy refer to Tara and PG’s posts). Pastas made on equipment shared with products that have egg in them. A bite of a bread brushed with egg whites. A tiny dot of ice-cream containing egg yolks. When he was younger, even touching egg products would bring on a dermatological reaction – the site of contact would get itchy and he would develop rash or hives. As he has grown older, the response has toned down in its ferocity. Instead of suffering for a few hours, he suffers for one. His pediatrician thinks he might outgrow the allergy by the time he is 5 or 6, and even if he doesn’t, it would downgrade to an intolerance level- he should be able to enjoy a small slice of cake or half a muffin by the time he reaches adulthood. He might not be able to eat a plate of eggs all his life.

Chip was diagnosed with egg allergy when he was 10mo old. The allergy had manifested itself once before, when I gave him a dot of peach ice-cream, he grew red instantly and howled and vomited multiple times. But he suffered from colitis as a baby and we attributed it to that fact. When he started flailing his hands and turning red and having severe bouts of vomiting, twice, when I fed him french toast, I suspected an allergy and the doctor confirmed it. Chip also has eczema and asthma, which put him in the high-risk group for food allergies as is.

Having an egg allergy is difficult. A lot of foods have egg or egg derivatives in them. Baked goods, salad dressings, battered foods, ice-creams, chocolates, potato chips, corn chips can have egg in them. So do influenza vaccines (which Chip does not get). The first few months after the diagnosis were hard. Two years ago, many foods did not list egg as an allergen 9many still don't), so before buying every processed product I had to learn to read labels. Before buying every ice-cream at the concession stand I would have to ask to see the list of ingredients. Before buying every pizza, I would ask the restaurant to provide me with a list of ingredients. Often we would turn back with Chip not getting the ice-cream, pizza or chicken nuggets. Baked goodies were avoided like the plague. The nanny was taught to spot an allergic reaction and dispense Benadryl. Then the same process repeated when he started daycare.

The first thing we realized in dealing with Chip’s allergy was that we had to make him aware and educate him. By the time he was two, we taught him to ask “Does this have egg?” when offered a new food. And to decline if it did. He did admirably, most of the times, but sometimes it was hard for him, especially when a plate of birthday cake with colorful icing was offered to him, and on many occasions he ended up having a meltdown and refused to accept substitutes. But he learnt. We reminded him of what an allergic reaction would do to him. It was not the world’s most pleasant experiences. He also learnt to identify when he was having an allergic reaction and alert a grown up.

He did me proud a few weeks ago. We had carried chocolates for our family when we visited India. Twix and mars bars and three musketeers, that sort of thing. Someone offered Chip a chocolate and he ate it –nobody thought chocolates had egg in them. A few seconds later, Chip ran into the kitchen proclaiming he was having an allergic reaction. “To what?” I asked. He said he had eating a piece of candy and it had egg in it. The signs were all there. He was itching, his face had inflamed. I gave him ½ tsp of Benadryl, but it was too late. His stomach started to growl and he started to howl in pain as cramps twisted inside his little tummy and a minute later, he violently threw up. This was not the first time Chip had eaten candy. He ate lollipops and gold coins all the time – it was just luck that he had never consumed candy with egg in it – I really had no idea candy would have egg.

It’s hard for Chip at birthday parties. And other social occasions. And it’s hard for us. I wish people were a little more sensitive to his allergies. Especially in the desi circles. I remember an incident a few weeks ago in India. We were visiting some family and they had bread (the paav, not the sliced bread) for dinner. It came from a small bakery, with no nutritional information anywhere. A similar paav had caused an allergic reaction in Chip once and I was cautious. I asked Chip’s aunt if there were any rotis for Chip or rice. The paav might have an egg glaze. She said she could make rotis, no problem, but could he not “try” the bread and see if it had egg in it? I did not know whether to laugh or beat my head against the wall.

Parents whose kids have allergies are most understanding. I have two such friends (one of them is gnd) who will always have a ready substitute on hand for Chip. And for that I am grateful to them. Another friend is also very understanding. Her child has no food allergies, but knowing how hard it would be on Chip, she asked me before her daughter’s 1st birthday party if it was OK for them to cut cake in front of Chip. I thanked her for her consideration and quietly took Chip away to the garden while cake was served. Most people don’t realize what it is to have a food allergy, in a social sense, for a young child. To be “different” like this. It’s not easy for a child. So, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of dos and don’ts for all of you out there that are fortunate to not suffer food allergies.

Don’t feed my child without asking me first.
Although Chip will ask if a food has egg in it, he is only three and very often he will forget. Check with me or his father before you feed him anything. For parents of young children who are allergic, there is a good selection of tees and onesies at cafrepress.com. Just search for 'allergy' and you will get results for tees with things like “Don’t feed me, I am allergic to XYZ.” It’s great if you are attending large parties or if your child is starting a new daycare.

Do inform the parents which foods with common allergens will be served at a party
While your menu should be allergen-free when a child with severe allergies (like nuts) is invited, for most other non-anaphalytic shock causing allergies (like egg), a warning will be appreciated. The parents can then decide how best to handle the situation.

Do serve alternate foods
Don’t make it a party where the child can only eat potato chips and nothing else. Children are very sensitive. Do offer some, other non-allergic foods.

Don’t pity my child
Not to his face, at least. Admire his courage instead, when he declines a piece of most yummy looking cake. I have had friends exclaim loudly to me at parties “This is such a pity. So sad he can’t eat the cake.” To Chip’s face. Don’t rub it in.

Don’t thrust a cake in my face when I am shaking my head to a “no”
This does not mean I am disrespecting your party/guest of honor. It only means I am going to give my son some company while he sits by himself, unable to enjoy the goodies. And yes, please refrain from asking things like “Even if Chip can’t eat, you can eat, na?” in Chip’s presence. Especially when he is whining for that item. The child is old enough to understand. And if you do ask, don’t be offended by what I answer.

Do educate your own child about food allergies even if your child doesn’t have them
No parent wants their child to be weird of different. In the US at least, there is a growing allergy awareness and kids are understanding. In India, even adults think allergies is a firang disorder and will tell you so. No idea what their kids will do.

This post is a part of an allergy awareness month started by Tara. Please share your stories and comments and help spread the word around.


Rohini said...

I think this is a great post. Since my brat does not have any known allergies, I probably might have made some of the basic etiquette errors you mentioned just out of pure ignorance. Thanks for pointing them out

Preethi said...

Great post...something people should be aware of. Cheeky doesn't have any allergies.. but I still never send any allergens rich food (nuts etc) for lunch to school.. even though his is not a nut free classroom! Better to be safe, in case some kids have it but have not been exposed?!

Tharini said...

Thank you Dottie. this was a fantastic post. I come away from it, a lot more educated. Thank you!

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

Like you very well pointed out, DO NOT FEED MY KID anything w/o asking me (or dad) first. Despite knowing how to read labels and doing it for almost 7 years, I made a mistake a few months ago! (Fortunately not a costly one).
So please don't get us wrong when we come across as not-trusting you!!

I think about all that my friend, V has to go through with her daughter (S) having severe allergies to nuts and milk (i.e., no cheese, yogurt, butter...NOTHING)!
It's heart-breaking!

Anyways, I could go on and on with my comments...

Thanks for such a wonderful post!!

Its our space said...

Dot t,

I lurk around quite a bit and dont comment regularly,but this issue is close to my heart. You have said all that I wanted to say about allergy awareness and living with it. my daughter is allergic to milk, nuts,eggs everything . I have been there in the circumstances you have described so beautifully. Living with little children with food allergies certainly is challenging and different. Thanks for sharing your experience and throwing some light on this important topic.

Vinita said...

And here I am worrying about me being a vegetarian and surviving .

Hats off to all you moms and the kids.


karmickids said...

Lovely post. I have always had an eggless cake for Krish's school and party celebrations for two reasons, the vegetarian factor and the allergic factor. And yes, common courtesy, even if a kid comes home on a playdate I will ask the mother if there is any food the kid is not supposed to have....and adhere to that strictly. Its just common courtesy. I wouldnt want anyone inflicting it on my child.

AA_Mom said...

Nice post Dottie, and yes I relate to it a 100%. Apple has had milk protein allergies as a little kid and has eczema issues too. I know how heart wrenching it is to not feed something that is a part of your daily diet.

Recently I discovered Angel as being allergic to something in the food as well. Me n my sis fed her a 7grain bread slice and she immediately had rashes, little red dots all over her body and it lasted a day. Apple's allergic reaction would last only for a few hrs. So a big Sigh!

Sue said...

Like Ro, I'm grateful for the etiquette part. The only thing I can say I did was to check with every child's mother about allergies for R's party this time.

Well-written post, Dot. Don't blame the ones who grate on your nerves. They really don't know any better. They haven't experienced it, most of them, I'm sure.

Girl Next Door (gnd) said...

Sue, That's sadly the issue...
Those who don't know any better clearly don't wanna even try! Even if you repeatedly tell them nicely that your kid can't eat that!
Those are the people who frustrate me.

I recently visited a family (fil's ex-colleague's daughter) and was completely taken aback by this lady's understanding...
She has no clue about food allergies, yet she was so thoughtful and decent catering to my requests...
I was almost in tears, prolly the first person I've met who did that (someone who's not family, meeting for the first time, NO first-hand experience w/ food allergies)...

To all of you who have shown these little gestures (yet they mean a lot), I thank you!
Like Kiran says, it's basic courtesy and decency...

Sorry to vent out :P

choxbox said...

Wow Dottie. Articulate post as usual.

I think most of the do's and do not's boil down to just being a bit more sensitive to kids. Pitying the kid and saying stuff to that effect when he is around - that one absolutely gets my goat. Aargh.

Btw am a hardcore veggie - do not eat anything with eggs in it. Do ask me for gyaan on non-egg recipes if you ever need to. And reading labels? - my brain can spot 'egg' even if there are hundred ingredients in font size 4 printed there!

Anonymous said...


Great info on the details of egg-allergy. My son has asthma and is allergic to many things, but in our case, we found that treating it in a matter-of-fact way made it easier on him. I am severely allergic to many things myself and have had asthma all my life, so in my son's case, he was probably helped by my treating it as a nuisance, not a big deal.

When he was younger, birthday cakes were the biggest issue for us, but now, at 8, he's fine - his class has a no-nuts policy (one child is severely allergic) and they ask that only cookies be brought in, along with raisins or other non-allergy causing snacks.

I *AM* glad we live in the US though - I see people (mostly the older generation) have such a hard time accepting allergies in India - it is easier to claim a religious reason why you cannot eat something - which is what I started doing on my last trip back!


K 3 said...

Wonderful post dottie, I think people only become aware when its their own kid or someone they personally know. I would have never thought once to ask another parent if you child has allergies, except maybe, what will she like rice/chappati/or something else. But now that I have seen some kids who cannot eat certain things, I try to be more considerate.

As for pity factor, kids are often the harshest critic - but elders need to be a lot more understanding and make the extra effort

Hugs to Chip and here's hoping that he outgrows the allergy some day soon.

Sue said...

GND -- I do understand your frustration. But some people are so thick-skinned. When I was weaning my son, because he enjoyed eating everybody fell over themselves trying to give him stuff. Out of love and with no consideration that if he couldn't take it that he would fall very ill. Nothing happened but I did get very upset just worrying. Eventually, in those houses I firmly told them when entering that they were not to feed my son anything without checking with me. I'd rather be a bitch than have him upset his stomach.

I know it's not as bad as an allergic reaction but it does annoy me when people feed my child without a thought to his distress and ours and also, to some extent, since we both work, our inconvenience. A bad tummy may not cause major distress but it cut schedules to hell. And I've heard that line -- try a little bit and see and I remember how certain things made the baby Bhablet so ill. Then I think of how much worse it would be for a kid who's allergic. I really don't know why ppl dont' udnerstand this simple logic but I have accepted that my health is not worth trying to get this into thick skulls. :)

In a way I was glad as he grew older and more able to stomach all the things he wanted to.

Mama - Mia said...

this was such a perfect post simply because it told us unexperienced lot how to to be more sensitive and inclusive without hurting the child in any whatsoever!

and its bloody brilliant that Chip understands this so well. hats off to you!



RJ said...

Great post!! Especially two points (Thanks for mentioning)
"Don't pity my child! Admire his courage for rejecting the goodies"

"No parent wants their child to be weird or different."
You know I am a vegetarian (STRICT - JUST CAN'T and WON'T EAT MEAT) My husband (my parents,inlaws) are also vegetarian. I so want my kid to be a vegetarian. This is one thing I am going to try my best to enforce (second one being - he is not going to be illiterate :-)). I just can't get my head around that he would eat meat.( No chicken nuggets, No Pepperoni pizza etc)
Recently I have faced many situations where other parents(friends) trying to convince me that I should let him eat meat. Ofcourse I won't. This is by choice no allergies fortunately.
People tell me - you would let him be hungry but not eat chicken nuggets. I say "YES". He can eat vegetarian food else stay hungry. (Am I not 31 yr old adult with vegetarian food all my life?)
Here's my problem - I have to teach my kid to be different and accept it. Right now at school parties etc - teachers write a note on his t-shirt "NO MEAT". Because he is not speaking for himself. Any ideas ? Anyone ? Thanks. (Sorry for little off topic comment)

Imp's Mom said...

Great list of dos and don'ts...have linked up to you, hope you don't mind.

If its an issue, pls do let me know

Monika said...

brilliant post... Ojas doesnt have any allergies as of now... touchwood... I can understand how hard it would be for u and for chip specially with people so insensitive... but thanks for sharing the dos and dont best wayt to educate people

PG said...

really a great post. These are the aspects one surely needs to know, especially when you are not parent with children having allergies.
Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and giving us an insight into these aspects.
Is it ok if I link to your post to mine and healthy and tasty?

PG said...

BTW, I'M sure you have many recipes, but still, I'll be posting one basic eggless cake recipe with silken tofu which turned out wonderful. Will inform you about it once I do.
Life is not easy, once your child has special needs. I got to feel it when I had to stop giving Rishab milk and milk products.

mnamma said...

Very informative post Dottie. I have had a colleague who was extremely allergic to mushrooms and that was when I was aware of how severe the allergic reactions can be. Learned a lot more from this post. Thanks.

Squiggles Mom said...

You've mentioned Chip's allergy before but I never realised what it entailed for him. How tough for him to forgo stuff which kids around him consume without a second thought. And as usual, you've dealt it with in just the right way.
Reading your post made me appreciate how I can be more sensitive towards adults and children with allergies.
Thanks for the do's and don'ts.

DotThoughts said...

thanks people for sharing you views!

Anonymous said...

GND, when we were in India, we were visting a mami and she brought me into her kitchen and showed her oils,her masalas and told me what she could use to cook for Samar, I was so touched.

Dottie, excellent post. Especially the pity the child part. I know Samar is going to face that soon...

Usha said...

Very well written dottie. Hadn't thought of many of the points you have brought out in the post.
That tee shirt is a great idea - really thoughtful of those people.

choxbox said...

my kids have seen that i always check if there is egg or meat before eating anything that's unfamiliar. if there is i don't eat it. when we lived london, people often thought its an allergy issue, and accepted it with absolutely no issues. if they asked i explained that it was a choice we have made. in india now, being a vegetarian is easy anyway.

my kids also asked/ask if there is something new and its never been an issue. in fact all their friends' parents in london always arranged for stuff they could have when we visited them or if they took my kids out.

i have explained the reason to the kids why we do so and that folks around might choose to eat meat and that is their choice, which is as okay as ours. seems to have gone well.

DotThoughts said...

asaan: very thoughtful of her!

choxie: firangs are more accepting than desis.

DotThoughts said...

rj: firangs are more accepting than desis.. like I just told choxie.. try cafepress... and you can custom make a t-shirt.

dipali said...

Really raised my awareness, Dottie.
I'll try and keep these points in mind.

Bhavna said...

Hi. Great post. I know what to expect when my child grows up. He is allergic to MILK. And unfortunately has had Anaphylactic reaction to Enfamil Milk based formula when he was 4 months old. Sadly enough no lamaze clases, no doctors, no midwives educate expecting mothers about this. We did not have faintest clue as to what anaphylaxis is..!!!

D said...

Extremely relevant guidelines there.

One question though, why administer Benadryl for an allergic reaction? I thought it was a cough syrup.

DotThoughts said...

Bhavna: anaphylactic at 4mo? one scary episode that must have been! wow.

d: benadryl is an antihistamine/anti-allergic. Its used to cough since ther educed histamine response decreses the itchy, tickling sensation.

Bhavna said...

Yes..anaphalxis at 4 months!! It was worse than any nightmare..4 shots of Epipen and 3 shots of other anti-allergic, 3 days of ICU and one week of Benadryl every 6 hrs made him come out of it!!!

Good news is Enfamil came out with Nutramigen AA LIPIL (Amino Acid) based formula, for infants with severe cows milk allergy in Mar 2008 and that suits my baby. So he can atleast have some milk till his toddler years after breast feed!

Shreevidya said...

Hi D,
Its a very informative post. thanks for sharing. I have a close friend whose child is allergic to nuts. So I know how hard it is as parents to be vigilant all the time. I saw this website which sells products without any nuts, eggs and dairy. This covers all the common food allergies. take a look here


I would advice you to have a epipen or epinephrine injection with you,in case chip has a severe reaction.I am sure your doctor must have mentioned this already.check here for more info.

One small request, please post these 2 websites in desi momz club, it might be useful to other parents. I am not a member so can't do it myself.

I hope chip outgrows his allergy:)
take care.

PG said...

So, here is my promised lnk to the eggless recipe:
eggless apple cake with silken tofu

and here you can see the pictures:

Anuradha said...

Hii. My friend gave me a link to this blog as it talks about allergies. I am a 'desi' having a kid having multple food allergies- milk, soy, egg, penaut and chick pea. Reading your blog hit a home run to me. Some of experiences are sooo similar. I have just started the blog to spread the information I know. Keep up the good work. My blog is at http://avymom.wordpress.com/.