I looked to my husband when I was pregnant with my son and said, “I hope he gets your genes because I would hate to pass on mine.” I struggled with eczema and allergy issues my whole life, and my mom has battled severe asthma. I’m secretly jealous of my husband because his biggest health inconvenience involves a varicose vein.
I didn’t want my issues for my children.
I did everything “right” to try and prevent these issues, including eating a variety of foods during pregnancy and exclusively pumping to provide breastmilk for the first eight months of my son’s life–all the things that I was told would reduce the chances of eczema and allergies.
My son, now three years old, has been diagnosed with eczema, allergies (food, seasonal, and animal), and asthma. What else can we do but keep marching forward? This is our “Allergic March” journey.
The “Allergic March”
The “allergic march” refers to the progression and development of allergies. It starts with eczema, progresses to food allergies, then asthma. This usually starts in infancy or early childhood. Allergies are most common in children with a family history. Cue the mom guilt. I did it . . . I passed on my bad genes.
We noticed early in infancy that our son’s body was dry and flaky even with the use of soothing, moisturizing lotion and creams. Splotches of red covered his body, including his eyes and mouth. It was clearly noticeable, and I would often just go about my day until I realized how many comments we were getting.
“Wow, he looks really tired!”
“What happened to his eye?”
“Is something wrong with him?”
This ate away at me. I couldn’t help but think this was my fault even though I knew it wasn’t anything I had control over.
I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “IT’S ECZEMA, AND WE ARE TRYING EVERYTHING TO HELP IT, OKAY!?”
Our experience has been sleepless nights of tossing and turning, itching and crying. Itching so bad we couldn’t stop him from doing it. It can be a lonely journey because even if other parents are going through a similar situation, no two children are exactly the same. What remedies work for one, may not work for another. Trust me, eczema moms are not sitting on the sidelines ignoring the situation. We are trying every recommendation, checking all clothing for materials and tags, going broke buying handfuls of different products, and reading all the articles and published research out there. We never know when another flare-up will rear its ugly head again.
The first two years of my son’s life we could not manage his eczema no matter what we tried. I marched him to his pediatrician’s office (okay, I actually called very nicely and scheduled an appointment) and advocated for an allergy test. “He really needs it!” I said.
The blood and skin tests were positive for food allergy (peanut), dog allergy, and seasonal allergies (basically everything you can find in the Southwest). This was the cause of his suffering. I was heartbroken.
We immediately had to change our lifestyle.
Our first baby, a beautiful husky-pit mix rescue, has always been queen of our house. She was allowed on all furniture and often snuggled us through the night. In one day, she went from royalty to house rules. She was no longer allowed in the kid’s bedrooms, couldn’t crawl into bed with us at night, and she was shunned from the comfy couch she’s known her whole life.
We learned how to use the EpiPen and brought a pair to my parents’ house along with the “trainer” pen to show them how to administer it too. My dad decided to practice without us. Minutes later, we got a frantic phone call because he wasn’t wearing his glasses and shot himself in the leg with the actual EpiPen (palm in face). He was hopping all over the living room screaming. He really thought he was going to die. After the paramedics left, we felt feelings of shock, hysteria, and eventually, laughter. An unforgettable start to our food allergy chapter.
Right before my son turned three, he got an upper respiratory infection. We knew he was sick, but when his breathing was retracted, we freaked. My husband took our son to Urgent Care in the early hours of the morning.
After waiting five hours, he was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) with no test to confirm. They sent us home and asked us to wait it out because the virus just needed to run its course. But, his breathing became even more labored. We rushed him to the Emergency Room. They tested him, and his results were negative for COVID-19, flu, and RSV. They diagnosed him with an “asthma event” and sent us home with a nebulizer and albuterol.
Two weeks later, we rented a jump house for his third birthday. All that jumping kicked up allergens hidden in the cracks and crevices of the inflatable castle. We found ourselves back in the hands of our healthcare providers with another asthma attack. My son is currently on a steroid treatment to strengthen his lungs.
Acceptance and Marching Forward . . .
I have come to terms with the fact that I passed on my bad genes. I can move on now that the shock has subsided and my perfect vision for my child has been pierced. I’m ready to tackle the obstacles as they come. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve already made mistakes. It felt like a lonely journey, but I realize I am not really alone in my struggles. Although no one is going through exactly what we are, there are others we can lean on for support. I’ve found it gets easier and more manageable with time and knowledge. It’s our new way of life, and now I can’t imagine anything different.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.