First Person: When Food Allergies Affect Your Child

Anne Munoz-Furlong is founder and CEO of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, a national nonprofit organization in Fairfax, Virginia, established to increase public awareness about food allergies, children’s food allergies, and anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening reaction), provide education, and advance research on behalf of adults affected by food allergies and children’s food allergies.

My daughter showed signs that something was wrong by the time she was a few weeks old. She spit up soon after eating, cried a lot and pulled her legs to her chest as if in pain. Her face had a red rash. Her nose was always itchy; she would scrub her nose against my shoulder whenever I picked her up. Although I didn’t know she had allergies, it was clear that something was not right with this baby.


Searching for an Answer

I took her to a number of doctors, searching for the answer to her troubles. I stopped breast feeding and put her on cow-milk formula, then switched her to soy formula. We’d have a break for a few days, but soon the symptoms began again.

This process went on for nine months. The doctors told me she was just fussy, that I hadn’t taught her how to sleep and that’s why she rarely slept more than 30 minutes at a time. One doctor told me I was a nervous mother and was the cause of the problems, another told me she vomited because I moved her soon after she ate. However, she had projectile vomiting that could almost hit the wall across the room, so I knew in my heart something was wrong. I raised the issue of allergies, but the doctors assured me babies don’t get allergies and dismissed me. This was one of the most trying periods of my life. I had a baby no one wanted to be around because she cried constantly, her nose was always running, and her face was a red scaly mess.

A Fear that Something Was Seriously Wrong

After nine months I started to become worried that she had a serious disease and I was running out of time, so I took her to Children’s Hospital [in Washington D.C.] We were referred to the allergy department. There, a pediatric allergist took her history of symptoms, did a number of skin tests, and determined that she was allergic to foods. He asked me to take her off the formula and not to give her eggs. Within a few days she was a changed baby. The crying and screaming stopped. The quiet was very peaceful.


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