Third Birthday and Upcoming Food Challenges

Dairy-free birthday cake

Our youngest son turned 3 years old this week. As we celebrate his birthday, there’s a lot to be thankful for in terms of his food allergies. We’ve had some good news this year. Here’s a quick summary:

Now I can use eggs in my son’s birthday cakes. For his party, I opted for a traditional yellow layer cake with a rhubarb swirl and chocolate frosting. The Kitchn has an easy recipe for this traditional birthday cake, which I adapted by using dairy-free margarine and rice milk.

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We will be scheduling a food challenge for eggs in the upcoming months. If our son passes this test, he’ll be able to eat scrambled eggs, french toast, frittata and all those other egg-based dishes I’ve been anxiously waiting to make again. To prepare for this challenge, I’m making sure he eats some form of baked egg every day—like dried pasta, homemade cake or bread—to hopefully build up his tolerance and increase the likelihood of him passing the test.

We also have a new testing plan for his milk allergy, developed in partnership with his pediatric allergist. This involves a series of food challenges, starting with baked milk. If there’s a negative result (i.e., no reaction occurs), then we move down the list to the next test, and so on, until he completely outgrows his allergy. If there’s a positive result (i.e., a reaction occurs), then we’ll repeat the test after a certain period of time and hope he eventually passes it.

For each of these food challenges, here’s what he’ll eat:

  1. Baked milk: Cake baked with powdered milk. Looking at the data, there’s a good chance my son will pass this test. For example, a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2011) reported that approximately 75 percent of children with a cow’s milk allergy can tolerate eating foods with baked milk.
  2. Baked yogurt: Cake baked with dairy-based yogurt.
  3. Baked cheese: Pizza baked with cheese on top.
  4. Cold milk: Cold milk or possibly petit suisse again—to be determined.

From what I’ve read, our son has a good chance of outgrowing his milk allergy. I recently came across the milk allergy guidelines from the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), which indicate that the majority of children will resolve their cow’s milk allergy and recommends individuals “be reassessed at 6-12 monthly intervals from 12 months of age to assess for suitability of reintroduction” (p. 643).

Instead of our selected approach, we could have chosen to skip all these additional tests and go straight to the cold milk test for a second time, as our son could outgrow his milk allergy on his own, without any intervention. This was the other option we considered, and it could also work.

Even though my son could outgrow his milk allergy on his own, I’m just too impatient to wait. Plus, the study cited above found that for children, consuming baked milk products can accelerate the resolution of their allergy. Knowing this, our pediatric allergist suggested this incremental approach, and my husband and I agreed with the recommendation. I would much rather actively do something and test these different forms of milk, than wait another year, have the same result and find we can’t make any changes to our son’s diet.

Being able to add powdered milk to baked goods would be such a major improvement, and it may be something we can start doing soon, should my son pass this first test. If so, our family would no longer be living completely dairy-free in Switzerland, so once again, I may have to change the name of this blog (which I would be overjoyed to do!).

Questions: Do you or your child have a cow’s milk allergy? What approach are you taking to try and resolve it? Please leave a comment below or send me an email at dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. If you have a moment to do so, I would really appreciate it.

Many thanks, and bon week-end!

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Allergy-Friendly Birthday Party

On Saturday, we hosted our oldest son’s birthday party or “fête d’anniversaire” with nine of his classmates. To keep the party safe and accessible for our youngest son who has food allergies, I planned a dairy, egg and almond-free menu. We had to make almost everything ourselves (which we’re used to, so it wasn’t a big deal), but at least I could serve store-bought pretzels and Karamellgebäck cookies. It was deeply satisfying to throw this party because it showed me how much things have changed during the year, and for the better.

Last year at this same time, we had only been in Switzerland for a little over a month when our son’s birthday rolled around. We didn’t know many people yet. Plus, I wasn’t as familiar with allergy-friendly Swiss products, nor was I as used to making allergy-friendly treats for a crowd.

This year, everything feels a little bit easier. Some things don’t change though. I still made way too much food, as shown by the photo of our leftovers below.

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Overall, I hope the kids had a good time at the party, especially considering my incredibly poor French skills and our silly games—the limbo and a homemade Angry Birds piñata, for example. And, thankfully, no one was hurt and nothing was broken!


Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake

For the party, I discovered the most wonderful Bundt cake recipe: Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Veganomicon (via Hibbard Kitchen). Even though I made some substitutions—like supplementing my small bag of grated coconut with about a quarter cup of ground hazelnuts—this cake was really special. I can’t wait to make it again when I have the full amount of lemon juice and zest on hand.

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The temperatures have crept back up this week, so it still feels a bit like summer. I’ve been meaning to make dairy-free ice cream for months. Maybe I should do it this week?! I’ll let you know if it turns out…

Birthday Wish for My Son

Yesterday was my son’s second birthday. Instead of buying a cake, I put a homemade dairy/egg/nut-free bundt in the oven for his party. My cake experiment was a major failure, so I needed to make a second cake. Everything eventually turned out just fine. No big deal, right?

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Forefront, Cake #2; background: Cake #1 (fail)

When it comes to my son’s food allergies (milk, eggs and almonds), I try to have a positive attitude. Sometimes though, like yesterday, it can be hard. I start losing my sense of humor and creativity and just wish I could go to a bakery and buy a pre-made birthday cake. Or that I could bake a cake without having to worry about giving him hives (or worse) because I put in too many eggs… Or I didn’t bake it for long enough… Or I didn’t bake it at a high enough temperature.

After learning of his milk allergy 15 months ago, and then finding out about other foods he would have to avoid (first peanuts, tree nuts and sesame, and now just milk, raw eggs and almond), our family has adjusted to a new routine. I always need to remind myself that other people have many more allergies and go through so much worse. All we have to do is just avoid certain foods, which can be an inconvenience and a bit stressful at times, but we manage it.

Food Challenge for Milk

This Friday, all of that could change—if we could be so lucky. My son has a food challenge at a nearby hospital for milk. If he “passes,” we could slowly start introducing milk and milk products like butter, cheese and ice cream into his diet. While his allergist is confident with his test results to schedule this food challenge, it’s still possible he could have an allergic reaction during the test, ranging from hives to full-blown anaphylaxis (not likely, but still a possibility). The hospital will be fully equipped for whatever happens, but I’m still extremely nervous about the whole thing.

When my son blew out his birthday candles last night, I wished he would pass his food challenge. I wished he could have ice cream this summer. After his successful food challenge for baked egg in April, I hope this trend continues so he’s no longer living with any food allergies (although, he may hold onto that almond allergy, and there may be allergies we haven’t discovered yet…).

And selfishly, I hope that someday we no longer have to live with the constant worry that my son could eat something by mistake at the dinner table, a restaurant, or a birthday party, etc. The perils of his allergens seem to lurk almost everywhere.

My fingers are crossed for my son and for others facing food challenges, either now or in the future. I’ll have more news this Friday.