Patience Is A Virtue

I haven’t written much about food allergies in a while, which is a good thing. When my writing is quiet, so are the food allergies. But this last week has been quite eventful (in a good way) and I must share the news!

You remember little Winston, The Oats One, who developed a severe (though non-anaphylactic) allergy to oats as a baby. Oat, what was supposed to be a safe food and #99 on the allergen list, was really not so safe for him at all. His “reflux” symptoms worsened dramatically around 3 months old when we started him on infant oatmeal: intensified spitting up and discomfort. And after months of vomiting, agony, allergy testing (for top allergens) and food elimination diets, we didn’t discover what was happening until he ate his first Cheerios.

Our local allergist suspected an IgE-mediated allergy to oats, the “typical” kind of allergy. A pediatric allergist at the University of Michigan Food Allergy Clinic [see It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over] thought maybe he had atypical chronic Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES): atypical because he tested positive on a skin prick test and chronic because his symptoms gradually progressed with the more oats he consumed. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia states that “the most common FPIES food triggers [in babies] are cow’s milk, soy, rice and oats.” Seems pretty likely to me. But since I cannot go back in time to make this distinction, I have accepted that I will never know which type of allergy he truly had.

But it doesn’t matter. Do you know why? BECAUSE HE’S NO LONGER ALLERGIC TO OATS!!

Let me back track. In the summer of 2020 while we were avoiding oats, Winston suddenly developed an allergy to eggs. He had a tiny obsession with Eggo waffles that caused a horrible eczema rash on his cute little cheeks and chronic diarrhea for a month. A simple skin prick test and we had our answer.

Now, over a year later, we have been curious if that egg allergy could have been short lived. Although Winston is SO good with his food allergies (“does that have eggs or oats?” he asks) it has been difficult for him now that he has started preschool. With the government funding free breakfast for students, he is constantly surrounded by kids eating baked-egg foods and oats every day. His teachers have been great at finding him alternatives, and I always have extra food in his little cubby, but wouldn’t it be WAY easier if he could just eat the muffins?

So we decided to retest him. We were told years ago that the oat allergy (and the FPIES if he had it) would most likely be outgrown by the age of 5. Just a couple days before Halloween, which also happens to be his birthday, we had our allergist repeat a skin prick test for eggs and oats. Even though he already had a negative oat test at the University of Michigan in 2019 (we were told to avoid them anyway as skin tests–especially for FPIES–are not always accurate), I felt one more would put my mind at ease, given the severity of his symptoms as a baby.

Oat was negative… AGAIN! Egg, not so much (see #5 in the photo below). He was still a level 4 out of 5 for eggs. So no muffins. But we were cleared to FINALLY trial oats!

We waited until after Halloween to start the trial; no need to make him sick on his birthday. So the following Monday we began. He ate raw Quaker oats (mixed with brown sugar, because ew) in increased amounts over the course of 5 days: 1/8 tsp, 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, 1 tbsp. NOTHING HAPPENED! We were so relieved. His oat allergy seemed to be gone for good… fingers crossed it stays that way!

I promised Winston, and his older brothers who have been graciously avoiding oats with him for years, all of the oat cereal we could find! Starting with Cheerios, of course.

But watching my little man eat oats this morning for breakfast, for the first time in 3 1/2 years, caused a whirlwind of emotions. You guys, the last time he ate a Cheerio, he vomited 26 TIMES IN ONE DAY. My belly was fully of nerves and anxiety as he picked up that little oat and chowed it down with a smile on his face; my heart was full of happiness and excitement. We have been patient with oats for many years, but we don’t have to be anymore.

As Oprah would say…

“You get an oat! You get an oat! EVERYBODY GETS AN OAT!”

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