Christmas in Germ City

This Christmas has been crazy.  Maybe they all are, I don’t know.  To explain our Christmas, I have to jump back to Halloween.  Yeah, sit back, this might be a long (but entertaining) story.

My son has been 80+% Paleo since the start of the school year.  He caught a bad cold early on in the school year, and I made him 100% Paleo for a while.  He got over his cold quickly with little other intervention, so we’ve been trying to keep it up.  Then Halloween came, and not wanting to be the Paleo Monster, I let him have standard Halloween junk.  The Thursday after Halloween, we went to a friend’s house for dinner.  We were there for about 2.5 hours, had a great Paleo meal, then left.  On the way home in the car, my son started complaining that his eye hurt.  To make a long story short, a drama unfolded quickly that involved his eye swelling shut, lung inflammation, a trip to urgent care, a nebulizer, and steroid shot.  What caused it, we didn’t know.  We suspected that he had developed a cat allergy (the home we visited had 2 cats, and he was petting them).  Previous allergy testing was negative for cats.

To backtrack even more, my son had horrible allergies and asthma when younger.  He would literally get pneumonia or bronchiolitis every 2 weeks.  This went on for 2-3 years. He vomited frequently (choking frequently with extremely enlarged tonsils that no ENT would take out).  He got to the point where he wouldn’t eat much and got very thin.  Life got better when at age 5, he got those tonsils out.  He’s eating much better (still very picky, but we’re working on it), and the asthma symptoms have been pretty much gone for over a year, and very good the 2-3 years previous to that. Cavan is currently 9.

Back to Halloween.  We went for new allergy tests after this incident to the clinic we’d always gone to, but there was a new doctor.  Tests revealed a very serious cat allergy, a moderate dog allergy (we have a dog that sleeps in his bed, but no cat).  His other seasonal allergies had also worsened, which was surprising given his lack of symptoms this last summer.  This new doctor sent us out the door with 8 medications and orders to find the 4 that best work for him (2 oral, 2 inhaled), plus epipens for the cat allergy, should it happen again.  I was not at all prepared for what happened during this appointment. It was upsetting to say the least.  Cavan needed these medications in the past, but I wasn’t convinced he needed them now.  We’re rarely near cats, and it’s winter (no outdoor allergens).  The other point is that these medication make him cranky, irritable, and sometimes even aggressive.  I don’t want him on 4 medications year round unless absolutely necessary (which this doctor thought it was).

I went for a second opinion with our former allergist who still works for the clinic, but a different office an hour away.  She didn’t think he needed that many medications, but he did have a problem that doc #1 never told me about.  Apparently when Cavan is healthy, he can blow 129% of the lung volume a child his age and size should be able to.  A week after the cat incident, he was only at 86%.  It would have been nice to know that, as he didn’t appear at all sick.  At the allergist #2 appointment (a full month after the cat incident), he could blow 104%.  This is good, but not his baseline.  They gave him 2 puffs on a fast acting inhaler, and he blew 116%.  In other words, a month after the cat incident, he still had inflammation in his lungs.

Allergst #2 (who we love dearly in our family) explained that when boys grow, their bronchial tubes open, and they’re better able to ignore symptoms.  Couple that with the lack of tonsils and adenoids, and it’s very hard to tell when he’s sick.  This doesn’t mean he’s healthy, and she recommended an air flow meter to test him to see if he’s having trouble to determine when he needs an inhaler, as we don’t want to lose lung capacity. She wanted him on a maintenance inhaler for 2 months to see if we could get back to baseline, then we could try to stop.  We started this inhaler (he’d taken it before without issue, but this was a smidge different… inhaled powder instead of liquid) about 2.5 weeks ago.

On Sunday, Dec 14th, we let Cavan have a doughnut at church (something we don’t typically have at our Paleo home, but we let him enjoy such things).  When we got home, he had stomach pain and nausea.  Gluten intolerance, I wondered???  No diarrhea or vomiting.  It passed in an hour or two.

He was fine until Wednesday.  Wednesday, he had his school Christmas party at the end of the school day.  Lots of junk food.  He came home on the bus, immediately parked his butt on the toilet, again complaining of stomach pain.  No diarrhea, no vomiting. It passed in a couple of hours.  Hmmm, gluten intolerance, I REALLY wondered???? 

Friday night into Saturday, he had extreme stomach pain for a much longer period of time.  He had nausea and a little vomiting.  No diarrhea.  He hadn’t eaten any non-Paleo foods.  Weird, I thought.  I managed to get him into the pediatrician on a Saturday.  She thought stomach flu, but couldn’t rule out appendicitis.  She said to give him 5-6 more hours. If he didn’t improve or got worse, she told us to take him to the ER.  About an hour after we left, he was fine. He stayed fine all of Sunday (no doughnuts at church!) and Monday until Monday night.  He and dad returned early from playing racquetball because his tummy was starting to hurt.  Moments later, he was on the bathroom floor in the fetal position, screaming.  We went to the ER.

He walked into the ER, and the nurse took one look at him and handed him a barf bag.  Good call, as a few seconds later, he filled 2 of them.  Sorry to be gross here, but he was in terrible pain, and the vomit was no ordinary vomit.  It was the “out the nose and mouth, forceful, can’t breathe” kind of vomit.  I guessed he would have pneumonia within 24 hours, as this is what he used to do a few years ago.  You could almost set a timer.  The ER did an xray of his belly.  Lot of gas, no obstruction. They did bloodwork. No sign of infection.  His pain was subsiding, but his nose and throat hurt from the vomiting, and he was very stuffed up in his nose.  We went home with the recommendation to see a pediatric gastroenterologist.  The best guess was crohn’s disease (autoimmune inflammatory intestinal disease), which my grandmother had.  NOT good.

After we got home, it occurred to us that perhaps his new inhaler could be causing this.  I googled side effects, and there it all was…. stomach pain, nausea, vomiting.  We stopped it immediately.  Tuesday, he had some slight diarrhea (new symptom), but it stopped quickly.  Stomach pain was decreasing, but he was TERRIFIED to eat anything.  He stuck with gatorade, water, applesauce, bananas, and graham crackers (yeah, I know, graham crackers).  He developed a slight cough, which I had expected to come, given the forceful vomiting.  His Poppop (my dad) came to visit Tuesday for the holiday.  Wednesday (Christmas Eve), he had a good day, good energy, ate a bit for dinner.  We had a party with friends, all went to the zoo lights, and had a great time.  When we got home around 9:00 PM, Cavan promptly stated he didn’t feel well and wanted to go to bed instead of church.  His temp was 100.0.  Oh boy, I thought.  I gave him some ibuprofen and sent him to bed.  He slept well.

He woke us in our room at 6:15 AM, happy it was Christmas and ready for the excitement of the day.  15 minutes later, his temperature spiked, and he literally wouldn’t get off the couch.  Pneumonia in the making, I thought.  He stopped opening presents and started reading his books.  Ibuprofen kicked in a while later, the presents got opened, and life moved on.  Later Christmas day, he started looking very unwell.  103.6 on the thermometer. Time to add Tylenol to get through “the end of ibuprofen, but ya can’t have more yet” time.  We were out of Tylenol.  It was Christmas.  We muddled through.  He ate a little.  No stomach pain.  Harder coughing leading to vomiting started that night. Add to that, my husband started getting some sort of stomach flu.  He spent the night on the bathroom floor (massive vomiting and diarrhea).  What the hell is this?

Friday was a bit better with fever management (Haha!  Tylenol was our first after Christmas purchase).  He had some vomiting episodes that did not appear to be stomach pain related, but rather coughing so hard he vomited.  The pediatrician’s office was not open.  Ugh.

Saturday got a bit worse.  He started complaining his chest was tight (pneumonia?  asthma?) He didn’t sound wheezy though.  His cough was hard and dry and leading to vomit.  His inhaler (not the one we suspected of hurting his stomach) seemed to make him worse.  Urgent Care Saturday night. We had to explain our long story, which ironically started at Urgent Care from the cat incident almost 2 months ago.  His lungs sounded clear (something that would happen as a kid too… hard dry cough, but then would loosen with steroids and eventually you could hear wheezing/pneumonia).  The nurse thought he had picked up the flu from the ER, but he tested negative.  He’s lost 6 pounds (10% of his body weight) in a week. I begged for an oral steroid since he wasn’t tolerating the inhaled stuff.  She gave us that and a cough suppressant.  Cavan spent last night sleeping on a mattress on the floor of our bathroom with 2 humidifiers and intermittent running of the hot shower to keep the steam level up. He slept fairly well, all things considered.  The cough is starting to loosen.  You can hear some phlegm, but there’s also a slight barky quality to it too.

In the midst of it all, I’m the healthiest person in the house (who would have thought?), but am exhausted.  At least there’s tons of Paleo leftovers, and we don’t have to cook! Hubby is feeling better, but not 100% yet.

Hey, if anybody else has heard of these weird symptoms, please let me know.  I’m hoping the pediatrician is open tomorrow.  We NEED some answers.

Love to you all!  Merry Christmas!  Happy almost New Year!