Monday, March 9, 2009

Mystery hives

Last night something happened that seems to be really common among those with food allergies ... hives started appearing on Ainsley and we had no idea what had caused them. This happens a few times a year with her. All of a sudden, she will start itching - sometimes it's her stomach, sometimes her arms or legs, and sometimes her face - and little hives will pop up. The last several times it has happened, we have had no idea what the cause was, either because she didn't eat anything around the time the hives started to appear or what she ate was something she's had before or something we're 99.9% sure wouldn't have anything she's allergic to in it (barring the ever-present possibility of cross-contamination).

Last night, while at my in-laws', she ate dinner (brisket, green beans, carrots, and a baked potato) and then my mother-in-law gave her a bath in their big garden tub. After the bath, Ainsley ate some chocolate cake that my mother-in-law had made the night before - it was from a Duncan Hines mix but the only allergen listed in the ingredient list was wheat and Ainsley had eaten some of it the day before without incident.

About 20-30 minutes after the bath and about 15-20 minutes after eating the cake, Ainsley started scratching at her stomach. I looked and saw some red splotchy areas and a little hive, so I put some hydrocortisone on it. I kept checking the area and saw that, over the next few minutes, a few more tiny hives had formed and the red spotchy area had spread to more of her stomach. So we broke out the Benadryl and after about a half-hour or so, Ainsley stopped complaining of the itching and the hives went away.

I wasn't really worried during this time - when Ainsley has had a serious allergic reaction to something she's ingested, the first sign has always been vomiting, and she had no problems like that last night. In fact, she said she felt completely fine except for the itching. The fact that she had no internal symptoms (such as itching in her mouth or vomiting) makes me think that it might have been something from the bath; perhaps residue from a cleaning product that had been used to clean the bathtub. With regard to baths, we are always careful about what soaps we use on Ainsley (nothing with dairy or nut ingredients, which are so common in soaps and lotions); the only thing my mom-in-law used on Ainsley was a very plain Johnson & Johnson soap and, right after the bath, some Eucerin lotion.

One time a couple of years ago she had hives on her legs and the tops of her feet after a bath, but we had also eaten at a restaurant shortly before that and let her have some corn chips that we had ordered, so we were never sure if it was something about the bath or something that had gotten on the corn chip, perhaps when it was in the fryer with other foods.

The frustrating thing about mystery hives is that it so hard to pinpoint their source. You can try to narrow it down but, really, it's impossible unless it happens again and you can see a pattern. I guess I am just glad this doesn't happen very often with her. But when it does, it is a reminder that, even though she's been free of a serious allergic reaction for almost two years, she still has allergies and we have to continue being very careful with her.


Jennifer said...

I feel your pain here. It's frustrating to never be sure. We have that same problem with our dairy allergic guy from time to time with Duncan Hines. I think sometimes they clean the equipment better than others. It's always pretty mild (just hives or itchy throat), and it's not enough for us to give it up completely. The J&J on the other hand has always caused issues for my guy. Again just skin irritation, but it always does it even though it has the same ingredients as the generic which never gives us a problem. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I googled something about hives and found your blog posting about mystery hives. I looked for a way to email you from your blog but couldn't find one so here I am leaving you a post. I have a 5 year old little girl who has had 'random' cases of hives the past few years. The first time we tracked it back eating Ritz 100 calorie snack pack that my in laws gave her (that was the only non-normal thing she had eaten). The next time she broke out in hives so badly she bruised from them and they lasted about 5 days. The only non-normal thing she ate was a sample of Chex Mix while at Costco. We had the allergy blood tests done and everything came back at a 0. We have avoided all snack mixes and stayed hive free for a year or so, but then last week she got hives at school. It was so sad, her face started swelling and turning redish purple. I took her directly to the pediatrician who referred us to an allergist but did not find it important enough to prescribe an epi-pen. I'm just not sure where to go... part of me want to give her some snack mix as we sit outside the ER, just in case... but most of me doesn't want to take the chance. Its not peanut butter as she has that most days for lunch. Any ideas of where to go next or some good questions to ask the allergist? Thanks! Jenn (