Asthma, Eczema, and Allergies…Oh Dye! Guest Post by Erin Deschene
I am Erin, a wife and stay-at-home mother of three living in the Cincinnati, OH area. We love going to exciting places together from museums and zoos to parks and historical sites. I blog about our adventures at www.wellroundedkid.com, and we explore the world happily…dye-free.
As I look at the Epi Pen and inhaler I now carry in my purse, I wonder how we got here. My son doesn’t suffer from a typical peanut, milk or shellfish allergy. He is allergic to food coloring.
Yes, he is allergic.
Michael is almost six now and we have lived a dye-free life for about three years. I have intense fear about what could happen if he did eat coloring.
When Michael was just over a year, he got sick and needed to be put on a nebulizer. At the time, we thought it would be a temporary thing. About a year later, that nebulizer had become a fairly common sight, and so did eczema. I never connected the two, and neither did any of the doctors who began telling me he had asthma.
I always rebelled against that asthma diagnosis; I just didn’t believe it. He was young. He didn’t seem to wheeze or cough when running. He would go months or weeks with no problems. It made no sense to me. The doctors told me it was “more than likely allergy-induced asthma.” So, allergy tests were run and he wasn’t allergic to anything. I was frustrated, and my now 2-year-old seemed even more frustrated by the steroid medicines he was on to “help” his asthma.
I began reading The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien. In it she talks about her child’s eczema and how it went away when she removed food coloring from his diet. An impressively interesting read, I thought maybe there was something in Michael’s diet causing the eczema. I didn’t even think about the asthma. I was beginning to think it was just going to be a part of our life.
He ate a pretty “clean” diet, since he was so young, but I removed the occasional M&M or sprinkles. My husband didn’t quite believe me (even if he is fully in agreement now). We removed artificial coloring and THE ECEZMA WENT AWAY! YEAH!
Weeks later, I remember being at a friend’s second birthday party. I allowed Michael to have the birthday cake with its crazy bright artificial frosting. The eczema was back that night.
I didn’t put it all together at first. It was probably six months later when I realized that we hadn’t needed the nebulizer anymore. As I did more research I realized that these artificial dyes could aggravate or cause asthma.
I told every allergist and pediatrician (and yes, I went to about five different ones). No one believed me. It was so frustrating. They would tell me his chart said he had asthma, so he had asthma. And there isn’t a real allergy to food coloring.
My second son, Daniel was born. One night I accidentally gave him Tylenol with dye. He woke up the next morning with horrible grooved eczema on his previously soft baby tummy. He has not had any food coloring since.
We kept avoiding artificial coloring in all its forms and were constantly frustrated by the medical community.
Shortly after our move to Cincinnati, we went to visit an allergist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Although he wasn’t convinced, he did run an allergy test for food dyes on both boys. Not all colors are available to be tested and he warned about results not necessarily “meaning anything.”
Michael’s results came back as highly allergic to Reds and Yellows (the only colors they could test for). Amazingly, Daniel’s were negative. The allergist basically told us that the results meant nothing because it’s a foreign substance. We all should have a negative reaction to unnatural substances.
The doctor told us just to avoid food coloring if we had observed some aversions to it. I was worried about Michael’s possible reaction and wanted an Epi pen, just in case. I was not given one by the allergist.
Michael started pre-school. I discussed his allergy with the teachers. I wanted him to wear gloves while painting. They said that would make him stand out, so I agreed to let him paint without gloves. A few times during the year he would come home with paint still on his arms or hands. That night he would inevitably start that 3 AM cough and it would last for about 3 nights.
I have a wonderful pediatrician here and I finally went to him with my concerns for Michael. He agreed with me, we don’t know what would happen if Michael had food coloring. We are better safe than sorry, and he prescribed an Epi Pen. The more the doctor heard about the coughing (a typical asthma cough), the more concerned he became. He also gave Michael an inhaler and suggested I carry these things with us at all times.
We take it seriously. We have been without artificial coloring for about three years now. It hasn’t been that difficult because I am with my kids almost all the time. And for the few hours when they are at pre-school, I pack their snacks.
We are entering a new world…Kindergarten. It petrifies me at times. We have an allergy action plan ready for school. And only his home packed snacks and treats will be allowed.
I know the other children will have snacks with coloring in them, and I’ve already seen the peer pressure starting. We have our first no-parents birthday party coming up and I’m so worried something will get by.
I sometimes feel self conscious and find myself over explaining the allergy to many non-believers. Yet, if they think I’m a hippie, organic-loving tree-hugger, so be it. I know from all the research that my children are better off without the lead and mercury laden coloring.
Thanks to Erin for sharing her story! Her mom instincts were spot on, and she was persistent in getting her son the help he needed. Share her story with friends and teachers who may not realize that synthetic food coloring can be a real allergic problem. Please post any questions for Erin in a comment below.