Real Housewives Strikes a Chord - Allergies in Children

I never thought I would be inspired to write by any Real Housewives franchise other than those kooks in New Jersey; but lying here in the middle of the night avoiding sleep by watching trash TV, I'll be darned if those Beverly Hills gals didn't prove me wrong.

On episode 7 ("My Mansion is Bigger Than Your Mansion"), Kim [you know, the non-wife Housewife whose two claims to fame are starring in Escape from Witch Mountain 40 or so years ago and being the aunt of Paris and Nicky Hilton] takes her daughter to the doctor. Her ex-husband had, against her wishes, bought her daughter a new puppy. Soon after getting her cuddly new gift, the poor girl started waking up with her eyes swollen shut and her arms covered in rashes. The doctor confirmed Kim's suspicions that the culprit was an allergic reaction to the dog. They had to get rid of the dog and fast. Kim was nervous about getting rid of the puppy, because her daughter had become extremely attached to him.

Boy, did this all sound familiar.

My daughter has been suffering from eczema and seborrhea since she was a month or so old. We have been following a regimen prescribed by her pediatrician, including a prescribed steroid cream and nightly doses of Benadryl. Despite all of this, lately she seemed to be getting worse.

After weeks of watching her mutilate herself to get to the rashes, Pop Culture Dad and I decided to see a specialist. The first time we met with Dr. B, the allergist recommended by Pop Culture Toddler's pediatrician, he couldn't even run the allergy tests. Her skin was so rashed up that he said not only would they not be able to read the results, but she would just be more miserable, and he was not going to put her through that. Dr. B gave us a long list of things to do to help PCT's skin, including three new medications. He told us if we did even half of what he recommended, we would see improvement within four days.

We did everything he recommended, and PCT's skin was better in three days. After a couple of weeks on Dr. B's plan, we went back in for the allergy testing. Because PCT was barely two years old at the time, Dr. B decided not to run all of the skin tests -- just the 16 most common allergens. Within minutes, four of the test samples lit up.

Numbers A7 and A9, the worst of the two, were cats and dogs, respectively. F4 and F6 were eggs (whites and yolks). A lesser allergen was F3, cow's milk -- to which PCT was highly allergic until just a few months ago. The diagnosis was pretty clear: get rid of our dog and cat, and my daughter's quality of life would greatly improve.

As several people who've known me for decades pointed out when I made my frantic Facebook post looking for someone to adopt our pets, I've almost never been without a pet. I got my first dog at age 6 and had her through college. In addition to my beloved terrier, I've had several cats, other dogs, fish, birds and guinea pigs throughout my life -- that's not even including our animals on the ranch.

Through unplanned circumstances, PCD and I had finally narrowed our number of pets down to two -- the English Mastiff he's had for 11 years (four jointly with me), and the cat I've had for seven.

We weren't entirely surprised by the allergies, since both PCD and I are allergic to cats and dogs [however, we have respiratory reactions, which we can easily fix with OTC medication]. I was still somewhat surprised, though, given the number of things I had read that said children who grow up with pets tend to have less allergies to them. Leave it to us to be the exception to the rule...

Emotionally, the diagnosis was hard. Pop Culture Toddler is beyond attached to these animals. We are attached to these animals. They were our children before we had a child.


Here is where Pop Culture Dad and I differ from Kim's ex-husband, Russell. When Kim told Russell about their daughter's allergic reaction, he made all kinds of excuses ranging from "Well she's not coughing right now" to "How can you be sure it's the puppy?", all because he didn't want to be the one to take the puppy away and find it a new home. PCD and I, on the other hand, cried about it, and then immediately started making preparations to find new homes for our pets. See, as hard as it is to lose a pet, it was a million times harder watching our daughter suffer. And in the contest between her comfort and our pets staying here, there was no contest.

That all being said, finding homes for older pets, particularly when everyone you know already has at least two, is easier said than done. It took us nearly a month to find a home for our cat, which is actually pretty funny when you consider she is now living with my mother.

The dog has been trickier. It's a pretty hard sell to convince someone to take in an 11-year old, 145-pound dog, who is the size of a small pony, and suffers from arthritis and various other joint and muscle problems. If we took her to a shelter, she would most certainly be put down. Even though we know we may have to put her down soon [particularly if you listen to the evil vet at Banfield who told my husband various statements to the effect that "she should not have lived this long" and "let me be clear, we will not prorate the annual wellness plan if she dies"], we don't want to expedite that process unnecessarily. Since our dog barely moves and will probably not be around much longer, the solution for now is to basically quarantine her from Pop Culture Toddler.

PCT misses our cat dearly. She often asks "Where's Maxie?", and when we tell her that Maxie is with Nonna, she insists we call my mother. Tonight she demanded of my mom that "Maxie come home!". One day, when she's not having a flare up, we may take her to visit Maxie; but we're not at that point yet.

I'm sad about losing my pet of seven years, but it had to be done. No matter how much we love our fur babies, our bio babies come first. Maybe by the next episode, stupid Russell will have learned that.

Posted from my iPhone, so please forgive any ducking typos.
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