In all the excitement of Joel’s first weeks at home this summer, we were slow to notice a rash that seemed to be always present around Sydney’s mouth. She has very sensitive skin, and sometimes it seems like if you look at her wrong she breaks out in some kind of rash.
But when we went to Joel’s two-month checkup and the pediatrician asked what was wrong with Sydney’s face, I suddenly realized that there had been a rash around her mouth for weeks.
We tried treating it with Lubriderm, Vaseline, and chapstick and it would fade, but suddenly reappear at random times. It didn’t seem to bother her too much. We thought maybe she was reacting to her pacifier, which she still used at bedtime. But when we weaned her off of the pacifier, the rash remained.
I started wondering if something she was eating was causing the rash. Maybe oranges were too acidic for her sensitive skin? But it didn’t seem to be linked to oranges.
And then one day, Rich took Sydney to Sesame Place for a special Daddy-Sydney day. He sent me pictures throughout the day of the fun they were having: meeting Grover, going on the roller coaster, playing on the water slides. And then he sent me a picture of Sydney eating a huge cupcake with Elmo’s face on the top, all in red sugar.
When they got home from Sesame Place, the skin around Sydney’s face was covered in angry red welts. I started to wonder about red food coloring. I thought about things she had eaten and the pieces quickly fell into place.
We decided that Sydney must have some kind of skin allergy to red food coloring. I started looking at labels and was shocked at all the things Red 40 was in. Of course, things like maraschino cherries and fruit punch, which Sydney rarely had anyway. But also strawberry jelly (!!!!), Cheetos, canned fruit with cherries in it, vanilla frosting and cake mix…tons of everyday things. She had eaten a pb&j sandwich with strawberry jelly probably four days a week for the previous six months!
We did our best to eliminate all Red 40 from Sydney’s diet. It was hard, though, because it just kept popping up! Toothpaste, shampoo, sprinkles on desserts… One night we ordered Chinese and as I was cleaning up after dinner I realized that I was rinsing Bright Red sweet and sour sauce off her plate. Ooops. But with each of our mistakes, she kept getting the rash and we became more and more sure that she was, in fact, allergic to the red dye.
I did some research and found a bunch of links between Red 40 and hyperactivity and tantrums as well as a few links to skin rashes. I started wondering if some of Sydney’s strong will was actually a reaction to this chemical in her diet.
Finally we had almost gotten her face cleared up. She was looking great and we were being really careful. She couldn’t have foods that had even touched anything red. No picking out the red and orange M&Ms and just giving her the greens. No scraping red sprinkles off brownies and giving her the rest.
Then one day I picked Sydney up from preschool, and her face was covered with red welts again. I immediately asked her what she had eaten and she told me that her friend had brought cupcakes in with purple frosting.
That was her worst flare-up ever. Her rash blistered and bled, and I decided to take her to the doctor. Sydney’s pediatrician confirmed our suspicions, but reassured me that the skin allergy is different than a peanut allergy, in that it is not likely to get worse and is not dangerous.
Since the purple cupcake this fall, Sydney has been almost symptom-free. One time she did a craft with red paint applied to her feet, which gave her a mild rash. But she knows now that she can’t have anything red and will always ask me before eating it (even with apples and strawberries, so cute).
But now that Sydney has gone so long without a problem, I have started to wonder if she really is allergic to Red 40, or if it was just a fluke. So when she was invited to a birthday party today I decided not to bring her one of her special cupcakes. I figured that if the cake had a lot of red, I would just buy her another treat (the party was at Build-a-Bear in the mall, so we would be eating cake in the food court) and if it wasn’t red, I would let her try it.
The cupcakes were white cake with chocolate frosting and a few rainbow sprinkles on top. I scraped off the sprinkles and let her have at it. Tasty!
But when we got home, I noticed her cheeks looked a little too rosy.
And then tonight, she had two screaming, crying, irrational meltdowns. Meltdowns that we used to experience at least twice a day, that we have not had in several months. And now that I am used to Sydney without the tantrums, I can see that they were not normal. I feel horrible for her. How scary to completely lose control like that! But at the same time, I’m kind of glad that I let her try the cupcake, because now I am totally convinced of her sensitivity.
My child has a food allergy.
None of us should be eating that nasty stuff, anyway.
Do any of your children have food sensitivities or allergies? How did you find out about them?