Blood tests

26 Nov

For days I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe what happened when Adam had his blood taken.  To convey to you the experience so you know what to expect.  And I’ve kept coming up with one word. Torturous.

I knew it would be hard as my friend had taken her 18 month old for the test a fortnight previously and had said that extra nurses had to be called in to help her husband restrain their boy.  But somehow I had just assumed that meant that her boy was annoyed and kicking and screaming as if during a tantrum.

That was a stupid assumption.  Because if what happened to J was anything like what Adam went through then it was best described as the boys fighting for their lives.  Adam was fighting with every ounce of his being to try and get out of his dad’s and the doctor and nurses’ grips. He was sweating, red, and the sound he was making can’t even be described as a scream. A scream is a beautiful sound compared to the growl that was coming out of his body as if he was a wild bear caught in a trap.

In short, it was a horrific experience for Adam, who didn’t calm down for a long time afterwards and kept bursting into anguished tears in the hours that followed. And it was horrific for me to watch him go through it.

And for what?  Well not for much really.  I should have done my homework and realised that the blood test that I was so keen on, that I thought would show us, out of say, 30 foods, which ones Adam was allergic to, was nothing of the sort.

By the time I found out it was too late.  At the appointment, the doc made a lovely long list with us of all the foods we wanted to know if Adam was still allergic to.  He’d had skin prick tests done at 9 and 12 months old (which were a walk in the park compared to the ordeal of the blood test!) and I thought the blood test would be more comprehensive and more conclusive.

In the end, despite what seemed like an eternity of blood taking, there was only enough blood taken to test for: milk; peanut; egg white; soya; wheat and cod.  Whilst that might seem like a lot of foods to test for (the vast majority of kids with allergies have one or two food allergies) we suspect he’s got more than 20 food allergies (with half of those already tested for through the skin prick test).

A couple of months later the results were sent to us without any explanation (with a two month wait til the doc would explain). I went to Wikipedia to try and understand the RAST test results.


Adam’s total IGE showed up as 1041 (I’m yet to find anything online that will explain what that means!).

The milk was (97.5KU/l); peanut 60.7; egg white 46.1; soya 25.3; wheat 22 and cod 1.9.

The frustrating thing for us was that if I’d known that we could only test for 6 foods I would not have included dairy nor wheat in the test as I’m just not bothered about us not eating them. Nutritionally they don’t offer much that other foods can offer, particularly wheat.  And finding wheat without egg or soya or nuts is near impossible anyway in the supermarket so we’d still need to be making our bread like we do already.

Given how Adam’s allergies play a massive role in our daily life as a family it would be useful if the hospital had even a one pager to talk ignoramuses like me through what the blood test results mean!  As you can see from the Wikipedia entry (yes I know I should be referring to something more rigorous but couldn’t find anything easily) the blood tests are not conclusive. They are used, along with skin prick tests and general observation of reactions in daily life, to build up a picture of the possible likelihood of someone reacting to a substance. They won’t tell you for sure whether the person will react or to what extent.  Allergies are an amazing mystery!  Seriously, no one understands their randomness.

Overall, I regret having done the blood test for Adam. I don’t think it benefited us in any way at all.  Perhaps if he was much older and allergic to just 2 foods and we were obsessed with reintroducing them (I’ve heard people lament that they can’t possibly live without dairy or without wheat) then the blood test would have helped the doc understand whether we should try reintroducing the foods slowly. As it stands, the test results haven’t made any difference and I still remember vividly the blood being taken!

Have you had a RAST Test done with your child? How was the experience for you?  Did you find the results useful?  Did the doc encourage you to have the test done or did you push for it yourself?


3 Responses to “Blood tests”

  1. Shakila December 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    Olga this is so great. Thank you so much. I have been sitting on the fence about the Rast test. I have the request form from the doctor sitting on my table, I couldnt quite get myself to arrange a hospital appointment for bloods to be taken. As the ‘food sensitivities’ we have experienced thus far are not of ‘severe/life threatening nature’ (thank God), I dont see the practical value of this test over the day to day experiences. Thank you for helping me to reach a decission. We wish Adam’s allergy situation improves soon.

    • allergickids December 4, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

      Shakila-glad you found the post useful (tho please bear in mind its just my personal opinion based on our experiences so far!). We just saw Adam’s allergist again a few days ago and it became apparent that the tests are being done partly for us to have something ‘to discuss’ at our appointments! Other than clarity for the parents, there isn’t much that can be done with the results other than food trials (i.e. the doc puts a bit of the food on the child’s lip and waits 20mins, then if no reaction he feeds a bit to the child, then if no reaction after 20 mins he feeds the child a bit more). And the food trial sounds like it would be far more traumatic than the blood test! In any case, the only two foods that the doc expects Adam to grow out of are are egg and dairy and so far there seems to be no way of speeding up or guaranteeing that a child will in fact grow out of these allergies anyway! I’ll write a bit more about our latest appointment soon.

  2. Madison May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Ugh! I’d typed a huge reply to this post and it got lost. I’ll try again but a more abbreviated version.

    Did the hospital give Adam Emla cream prior to the blood test? It’s a numbing cream that numbs the skin so he can’t feel anything. It really is a miracle cream. My son loves blood test, purely because of this cream.

    Food Challenges/ trial are a positive step and are to be celebrated, not feared. It is the one last hurdle to be passed before a food can be declared safe to eat. We’ve had many, many and my son has enjoyed each and every one of them. Mostly due to the fact that he gets to play in the hospital’s HUGE play room.

    They are a very tiring and tedious as there is a lot of waiting around, but they aren’t to be feared or stressed about. Please do see them as positive as it is that one final, final step and a huge achievement.

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