Friday, June 7, 2013

Daughter is allergic to sesame, horses. Horses!?

Unfortunately medicine is still far from the Star Trek tricorder stage, at which you can just wave your iPhone over someone and tell what they’re allergic to, but the next best thing is specific IgE testing. We got my daughter V’s results back today. I found the process and fascinating and the outcome illuminating.

IgE are the antibodies responsible for allergy. The IgE results we got consisted of an antibody quantity in units/ml (whatever “units” are), plus a “class” (from 0 to VI) which indicates the degree of allergy. Class can range from “negative” to “extremely high positive.”

Now, I need to talk to an allergist to figure out what is meant by “class”. It seems to be a value that a clinician makes a guess at based on the IgE measurement and the patient’s medical history and, possibly, the allergen in question. From what I can tell the class reported can vary depending on the assay and the person doing the estimating.

The results:

V  is apparently moderately allergic to peanut (3.7 U/ml, class III) and almond (2.5 U/ml, class II) so tree nuts are still out.

She’s allergic to milk (8.3 U/ml, class III), which we know all too well, since only last week I gave her milk by accident and she spent the next half hour barfing on the kitchen floor.

Quite a surprise to find out was that her highest antibody level is to sesame (14.7 U/ml, class III). I once gave her sesame sticks once and she vomited. I gave her a sesame bagel and she said her stomach hurt. But she’s been happily eating pressed sheets of nori (seaweed) that apparently contain sesame oil. Anyway, from now on: no sesame!

And here’s the funny thing. Along with her brother, she gets horse-riding lessons every two weeks. She comes back from them all blotchy in the face. We thought it might be from grass pollen, but on a whim my wife had her tested for allergy to “horse dander.” And she tested positive (3.4 U/ml, class II)!

But no allergy to rye grass pollen.

Allergic to horses. Who knew. Well, that ought to be an easy one to avoid. And it’ll give me a great excuse when she starts demanding a pony for her birthday.


  1. I guess the thing to figure out is actually how much of a problem the allergies are. I've heard of horse allergies before (including people just sitting in an open carriage behind them).
    I mean if she enjoys horse riding and the only problem is a few blotches then heck maybe it's no worse than your swimming!

    I think I'm allergic to sesame as well (but haven't been tested for it), so I don't think it's too odd.

  2. Yes. Definitely.

    There are several things we're concerned about: digestion, asthma & eczema, and potential anaphylaxis. We know milk and sesame are digestive problems. We're being careful with the tree nuts hoping she won't develop a serious allergy. Eczema and asthma triggers are really hard to figure out!

    A sesame allergy is annoying; sesame is one of those ingredients that you find in things when you don't expect it, and shows up in a lot of Asian processed and restaurant food. Last year when we were traveling, we got stuck at Newark airport for a whole extra day (thanks, United Airlines) and had to resort to the food court, even though we had no idea what they were putting in the food. It was a gamble that fortunately worked out.

  3. I was never tested for a horse allergy, only cat and dog(the obvious ones), but I've always known I was allergic to horses. Just being around them would make me sneeze. It's unfortunate I'll never get to ride one, they're beautiful creatures.

    As for the sesame allergy, I avoid sesame like the plague. The smell itself makes me gag, and sure enough on my recent blood test it showed I had a sensitivity to sesame. My nose knew I had an allergy to it before I did. The body is a strange thing.

  4. Funny thing is, I LOVE sesame. Each to their own!

  5. Actually, I'm allergic to horses as well. Also dogs. My reaction was similar to your daughter's when it came to horses; contact with the horse's dander (particularly sweat) caused huge, blotchy welts and caused an eczema flare immediately. This was a HUGE problem, because I was horse-mad from the time I first rode one at age 3 and my dearest dream was to have one. My parents had agreed that if I could save my money and buy one, they'd make arrangements for the boarding. So...from age 5 to age 13, that's exactly what I saved for, and my beautiful Appaloosa was what I bought.

    I *was* able to get around the allergies, though. A dose of Actifed immediately reduced the hives and itching, and I just made sure that I wore kid leather work gloves when grooming.

    FYI, I had that horse until I was 29 and was on my college equestrian team. It can be done!

  6. Oh, almost forgot: while I usually got the hives/swelling/itching reaction when I rode bareback (and when the horse's sweat soaked through my jeans), I also got a reaction like your daughter's sometimes on my face if I had patted the horse, then wiped away sweat on my forehead or pushed back my hair.

    I did have to be very conscious of how and what I touched. HTH.

  7. Happy that you got to live your dream! And thanks for the useful tips.

  8. It's too bad that your daughter has to give up horse riding but her health is priority. Let's just hope she understands that. Is she still riding or have you gotten her medication to prevent allergic reactions?

  9. Fortunately she's not pony-crazed. I don't think she even noticed that the riding lessons ended. I leave the decision of whether to resume them to my wife. She's still got a collection of more than 40 plastic horses from her childhood!