Given the severity of my food allergies (life-threatening), my physician had advised me to avoid exposing Rebecca to these same allergens as a precautionary measure, until she could be challenged with them. Since Becca will be attending school in the fall, the time was ripe for the scratch test.
I "prepared" Rebecca for a few days prior to the appointment by both discussing the upcoming visit to the special doctor, and by placing water droplets on her bare arms and asking her to try to keep her arms still. Nevertheless, we had no illusions about Becca's compatibility with trips to the physician, so we arranged for babysitting for Lucy.
On our way to the allergist, I realized that we hadn't gone anywhere as a trio since Lucy was born. It made me sad - a little - and nostalgic - a little, but not regretful. Rebecca was really relishing having the undivided attention of both her parents, and was behaving very sweetly and lavishing us with affection. So far, so good. Becca's blanket and a favourite stuffed tree frog came with us. In addition, I had assembled half a dozen books (ones from my childhood that Rebecca had not yet seen), and a card game as potential distractions during the fifteen minutes of hell. I needn't have bothered - the office obviously sees a great number of children since it was well supplied with toys, books, and stickers. In fact, kids of all ages were going here there and everywhere during our one hour stay. Rebecca immediately began playing with toys.
When her name was called she didn't try to bolt (as per our last doctor visit). We were taken to the allergist's office, where we were asked a series of questions about Rebecca's health history, various environmental factors (e.g. do you have carpeting in her room?), and some questions about our own health history. As a result of the answers, they decided to test for peanuts and the most reactive nuts (my allergens), and a variety of inhalants, pollens, and moulds (Greg's allergens).
We were then shuffled off to another room which had an enormous book shelf filled with children's books, the regular medical examination paraphenelia (examination table, sink, etc), some lovely anatomical posters of lungs and sinuses (greatly intriguing to Rebecca), and a stack of shiny stickers. There were two chair and a small folding table (of the exact type we have at home for when guests are in the living room). The allergist had followed us in, invited us to sit on the chairs, and then attempted to examine Rebecca's nose with the the small hand-held light/magnification tool that doctors also use to examine your ears.
It was at this moment that Rebecca went berserk.
I think I felt most sorry for the parents of the other children in the waiting room and in the adjacent examination rooms. There were tears, there were screams, there were cries of "Get me out of here!!!".
Naturally, I was filled with anxiety - I knew what was yet to come!
The allergist departed.
Some time later, a nurse came by. Rebecca tensed from the moment she appeared. As soon as the box of tubes appeared, Rebecca managed to crawl off me, and went under the chairs that Greg and I were sitting on. She then gripped the chair legs with all her strength. Greg had to pry her out of her hidey-hole. Then, he did the restraining of the test arm, while I held the other arm and whispered parental platitudes which had little effect.
18 allergen drops went on, and there were 18 scratches (plus controls). Once that part was over, she was easily distracted with books - although we had to continue restraining her for the whole fifteen minute wait. We were lucky to come across a particularly long book at just the correct level for Rebecca - a very violent (but I believe true to the original middle-eastern folktale) Aladdin story. [Side note: I don't understand why a story with Arabian characters is set in China]. Greg and I were very impressed with Rebecca's recovery and behaviour during that fifteen minutes. When the nurse returned, Rebecca was unhappy - but when all that transpired was a cleaning of her arm (which is something she had requested from the get-go), she didn't mind so much. The nurse left, the allergist came back. He gave Rebecca a big shiny Cinderella sticker - which pleased her to no end, and I returned alone to speak to the allergist again.
Everything was negative! We were thrilled, and a little surprised. Now, I'm kicking myself for not asking about the false-negative rate - but I didn't think of it at the time. I think I was too shocked. I did ask whether these results would stick or whether she could develop nut allergies later in life. He told me that primary nut allergies are there in childhood. If someone develops nut allergies later in life, then it is secondary to a pollen allergy and is a matter of cross-reactivity. I found that interesting.
At any rate, Becca was a little reluctant to leave the toy-laden waiting room, but we managed to extract her anyway. We asked her what she wanted for a treat, and she told us that she wanted a chocolate chip. That's right - a chocolate chip. We got her a big chocolate chip cookie, and that seemed to fit the bill. She didn't even finish it (although I'd be lying if I said it didn't find a deserving home). Parents need rewards too!
In sum, Rebecca is not allergic to:
- Dust mites