I can’t quite believe it but it looks as if we may have beaten this ridiculous banana allergy. Yesterday was hospital taste test day and, for the first time ever, Sidney passed if not with flying let’s at least say determinedly flapping colours.
A few weeks ago we had a follow-up series of skin prick tests, which suggested that the banana allergy could be going: from a bumper 12mm hive reaction when he was six months old to 3mm this time around. A taste challenge under hospital conditions was the only way to know for sure.
It’s a long and boring process, starting with a dab of fruit on the lip and building up to eat about 20g, with 20 minute gaps between doses and a constant round of blood pressure, oxygen, chest and skin checks throughout.
To quote Angela Carter – or, rather, her Cockney heroine Grandma Chance – I’ve learned to “hope for the best, expect the worst”. We’ve had taste challenges for wheat, sesame and green pea so far and failed every one, to varying degrees. But five hours in and, as a nap-less Sid was veering dangerously towards meltdown, we managed to spoon the last lot, a hefty cupful, in. And while we didn’t quite make it through scot-free – a few ambiguous red splodges showed up around his chin – the verdict was that this banana thing is on the way out.
Now we have to wait for 48 hours to make sure there’s no delayed reaction, and during the coming two weeks feed him banana two or three times. All being well, bananas will then be in his diet as a matter of course – with care taken to ensure he never goes for more than two weeks without having some, at least while he’s still young. The reason for this is that there have been cases where children have got over certain allergies but haven’t actually liked the food in question enough to ever eat it. Then, weeks or months later, they try the food again and find they have another reaction.
Banana is a funny one. It’s touted as one of the safest and best weaning foods and everyone does a double-take when you say your baby is allergic to it. Yet it’s not as rare as you might think.
In some cases banana allergy has strong links to latex allergy and goes hand-in-hand with reactions to the likes of avocado or kiwi. But there is another strain of allergic reaction to banana among babies that appears pretty much isolated to that fruit in particular.
There’s not a lot of research yet so no solid stats but, anecdotally, it’s said to disappear in around 80 per cent of those cases by two to three years of age (as, we hope, with Sidney). Robert Boyle, clinical senior lecturer in paediatric allergy at Imperial College London, notes: “We do see quite a few infants with early onset banana allergy which resolves fairly quickly.”
As a little side note I have one word of advice: if your baby reacts to banana – or, indeed, anything – don’t mess about trying to self-diagnose or listening to friends who became doctors at the Trawling the Internet School of Medicine. We had people warning us that, now Sid had reacted to banana, he’d be forever fated never to go near everything from courgette to melon, kiwi, chestnut, cucumber, tomatoes and celery. Crap. The only way you’ll ever know for sure is to get tested, properly, by a real expert.
Anyway, if banana is back on the menu it opens up a host of happy possibilities: egg-free cakes often demand banana as a substitute, bananas on (wheat-free) toast is a good little failsafe and it’s rare to find a shop or cafe that won’t have a banana in event of a food emergency. Plus so many of those fruit pouches and smoothies you get from Ella’s Kitchen and Plum have a sneaky banana in them to thicken up the mix.
It feels a bit weird: we’ve got so used to veering away from babies wielding bananas that it seems wrong to have any in the house. My husband and I haven’t picked one up since last May, in solidarity and because Sid reacted just to a touch of the fruit.
On the flipside, we carted in a load of fresh beans and pulses for skin prick tests at the hospital this week to see what may and may not be possible to introduce. We’ve had to be very cautious because of the peanut, chickpea and green pea allergies; they’re all related legumes so we haven’t dared to introduce any more. Unfortunately, green lentil, red lentil and broad bean all flared up something rotten. But a string of others – cannellini, borlotti, kidney, butter and French beans – scored a zero. We have to play it cautiously, as a negative score doesn’t mean he won’t react when he actually eats them, but we can try to introduce one or two of them carefully, antihistamines and Epipen at the ready, and see how we go.
But the future, well, it seems to hold bananas! Bananas and (egg free) custard! Banana split! Mashed banana and milk!
Just one worry – am I going to have to rename this blog?