With the older children, their allergies do affect daily life. We make our soaps, etc. But once you're settled into that routine, things are pretty normal. Things outside the house don't affect them so much. You don't typically use soaps, lotions, etc all over your body in other places (hand soaps seem to be fine--they're quick on, quick off, and only on their hands). The gluten-intolerance of my 3-and-5-year-olds affect things a bit more, but mostly when we eat. The rest of life is fairly normal.
With latex allergy, however, life is truly overhauled. I don't understand why people use natural rubber to make so many things. Yes, it's all-natural. But it's also very highly allergic. Ragweed is all-natural, but you don't find people weaving it into mats for their kitchen floors. =) Nor do you find people making pacifiers and teething toys out of poison ivy.
My daughter was what I called a fussy, needy baby. I didn't realize at the time that all of the elastic in her clothes and mine felt like hot acid to her skin. Or that the teethers she threw down were making her tongue and throat feel funny. When she was 6 months old, I started introducing some other foods. She seemed to be allergic to all of them. One of her worst reactions was to avocadoes. She developed a horrible rash all over the bottom half of her face and vomited, and vomited, and vomited. I did some research and learned that an allergy to avocado was often related to a latex allergy. Please excuse the poor quality of this photo, but here you can kind of see the rash on her face. She got this after eating any "solids."
Praise God we had that information the day two of my older children brought home balloons. The kids had been playing with the balloons in the living room while I gave the baby a bath or something (I can't remember exactly what we were doing). She was 8 months old at the time. I brought her out to the livingroom and set her down on the floor. One second she was happy and smiling. The next second she was covered in hives and couldn't breathe. Since we were already on the lookout, we knew immediately what had happened. My husband immediately grabbed the balloons and threw them outside, while I scooped up our daughter and ran out of the room. Once away from the balloons, she immediately began recovering. We didn't have epipens yet, so we gave her Benadryl, called my brother (who's a paramedic), and first and foremost prayed for her. Again, this picture quality isn't the best, but this is what her face looked like after exposure to the balloons. These hives appeared literally in an instant.
In hindsight, we probably should have called 911. But this was our first experience with anaphylaxis, and we did what felt right at the time. Plus, 911 comes with it's own set of problems. The ambulances are often full of latex particles from latex gloves. Same with the hospitals once you arrive. The fire department is now aware of the latex issue at our house, in case they get emergency calls here. She also wears a MedicAlert bracelet, and we have the decal on the car. I need to get latex allergy decals for our car windows in case we're in an accident, so paramedics don't come running at us with latex gloves on.
Some dangers for her are obvious. Many of you have children who beg you to take them to the restaurants where you walk in and it's full of balloons. My daughter could literally die if we took her in there. The places that are known for throwing big birthday parties for kids are off-limits. We can no longer go to our favorite playgrounds because one has rubber tiles under all of the equipment, the other has rubber mulch. Swimming pools are off-limits. Latex is water-soluble. Almost all of the people swimming are in spandex suits. Each of those slowly leach latex into the water.
Not all dangers are as clear. For a while we were stumped because every time my hubby got home from work and kissed her, she was breaking out in hives. We assumed it was something he was eating, but we couldn't think of anything he was eating that was different than the rest of us. And it wasn't consistent. Then I had a major "DUH" moment. He works all day out of a van full of rubber-coated cable. There is rubber residue all over him by the time he gets home. Then he'd kiss her with his toxic-for-her lips. So now he gets home, his dirty work clothes go into their own, covered bin in the laundry room, and he immediately goes into the shower. This is what her cheek would look like after a kiss from Daddy.
I had to change much of my wardrobe. All of my women's shirts that are cotton/spandex mixes are irritating to her when I hold her. Her clothes have to be washed separately than the rest of the family's so that latex from the others' elastic doesn't settle on her clothes. The dryer has to be wiped out with damp rags to remove any residue.
We got rid of rubber balls, rubber bands, pencils with rubber erasers, floor mats with latex backing, rubber duckies, rubber garden hoses, rubber teethers, rubbery craft supplies (rubber cement, etc), rubber mats in the car, rubber bath mats, I could go on and on. Our home is pretty safe. For example, we don't bring in the newspaper ads we get thrown on the front stoop--they have rubber bands on them.
But when we go other places, we have to constantly be on the lookout. Especially now, while she's still too young to tell us how she's feeling (she's now 2 years old). We carry these everywhere she goes:
What's ironic, is that this little carrying case they gave us held the epipens in with elastic bands. So I had to do a bit of surgery to make the very carrying case safe for her. If you open it up, this is what you find:
You need two auto-injectors, because after a first reaction, you can have a second, more severe one before you make it to a hospital or ambulance. If you look more closely at the bandages, you'll see this:
Latex-free. They're not all like that, unfortunately. So we take safe ones with us wherever we go.
I could go on and on. I could tell you how we've fed her foods that had her digging at her tongue, and upon contacting the company, I found that they used latex gloves when placing the containers onto the conveyors in their factory. I could tell you of our wonderful church going through all of the Sunday School classrooms switching out unsafe products for safe ones and removing rubber mulch from outside. I could begin to tell you of all of the possible cross-reactions with latex, from tropical fruits, to tapioca, to bamboo, to poinsettias. But I think you get the point. And I'm sure some of this will be in future blog posts.
If you're interested in learning more about latex allergy and where latex dangers may be lurking, I strongly recommend the American Latex Allergy Association site.
Please feel free to contact me at any time with any questions you may have.