Last night we gave Captain Jelly Belly an at-home allergy test.
(I really hope our allergist doesn’t read this blog — I’ll be in for one hell of a stern lecture.)
We’ve kind of lost faith in the whole allergy testing business. After fighting with our allergist for two years over the Captain’s milk allergy (we said he had one, prick testing said different), we finally got a positive skin test when we convinced our allergist to do the test with real, actual milk, instead of the purified milk protein syrum.
The Captain had been sick on and off for a long time before that diagnosis. For years we’d been searching for the one “magic bullet,” the one food that would be the answer to all our questions. If only we took him off milk, or soy, or wheat, or whatever that one thing was that was making him sick, he’d be magically all better and healthy.
We really thought we had found our answer with milk (he is also allergic to eggs and peanuts). But sometimes he’d still get hives or rashes from other foods, like soy milk, even though he (surprise!) does not test positive to soy in the skin test. All along we have suspected that there is a magic “something” in milk that he is allergic to — not the protein itself, but some sort of additive. Is it a colourant? A medicine that they feed to the cows? The Vitamin D that they add? Again, we were back to searching for that one thing that would solve everything.
This whole testing with actual milk opened our eyes to a new world. Although it is important to know what the Captain is actually allergic to, for future use, right now what we want to know is what foods are safe for him. He only drinks unfortified rice milk, because we know it is safe — and as a result, has no good sources of calcium or vitamin D in his diet. We make him take a calcium supplement, which he hates; he’s always asking if he can drink the fortified stuff or try soy milk, but every time we do try something like that, he seems to react.
Is it a real reaction, cross contamination from something else, or just the Captain having a wonky day? Who knew.
And now…we know. We think.
We took several brands and kinds of milks and popped them all open — rice milk, fortified rice milk, soy milk in two different brands, oat milk, and real cow’s milk. We washed the Captain’s arm well and sterilized six straight pins with alcohol. Then we put one drop of each kind of milk on his arm, just like at the allergist (I used a new, clean drinking straw for each kind to put the drop on), and gave each drop a little scratch with its own pin.
Then we waited ten minutes.
I swear, when I do decide to go back to work I should just open my own allergy business!
Anyway, he got hives in two places: cow’s milk, and one of the soy milks. But not the other soy milk. CURIOUS.
The one soy milk he reacted to contains something called carrageenan, a thickening agent used in almost all milk products and in many soy products, made from seaweed. It could be the magic bullet we’ve been looking for; certainly, like almost any food in the world, if you Google “carrageenan allergy” you’ll find all kinds of people who claim to be allergic. Unfortunately, it seems like there are lots of ways for carrageenan to sneak into foods without appearing on the label, and it’s very hard to test for.
But the real positive here is, there was no reaction to the fortified rice milk or the oat milk…so now we have some new options! Options with calcium! Options with Vitamin D!
We’re excited and happy. The Captain is overjoyed at getting to skip his calcium supplement his morning. YAY for home allergy testing, I say.