Last night my son celebrated his 4th birthday with family. As usual, he had a blast! New toys. Super hero cupcakes. Tons of family members... He was in heaven. I tried to let him go crazy and have a good time, but in my mind I was already preparing for what the next day would bring. Before I go into detail about what happened today (the day after his birthday party), I want to explain how this whole thing started.
Since he was about one year old he has had violent episodes of vomiting. The first few times it happened I assumed he was coming down with the flu or a bug. After a few episodes I knew there was something wrong. There were a few things that really stood out to me and alerted me that these episodes were not caused by a virus like the flu. The first thing was exactly what I wrote above; they happened in episodes. He would wake up violently puking, followed by a break, then more puking, another break, puking, break, and so on for several hours. Each episode lasted almost exactly the same amount of time (around 8 hours) and started right when he woke up. At that eight hour mark he would be completely fine. He would hop out of bed and start playing with his toys like nothing ever happened. He would eat a huge meal and drink a ton of water. He was ready to take on the day.
After a couple episodes that summer (now nearly two years old), I was able to reflect back and find out what they had in common. I realized these episodes happened the day after his 1st birthday, the day after Halloween, and the day after Christmas. I realized he ate cake, candy, or pie (things we only eat on holidays) the day before his episodes. I realized he was surrounded by friends, family, and even a ton of strangers the day before his episodes. Each one of those holidays were filled with excitement for him (opening presents or trick-or-treating). At that point I was suspicious and wanted to talk to his doctor about it at his next appointment or the next time he had an episode.
It was almost his 2nd birthday and time for a check up by the doctor. By now, I had already googled his symptoms (horrible, I know) and I was terrified. I explained everything to his doctor and unfortunately heard exactly what I didn't want to hear. Everything I researched online was true, and he was diagnosed with CVS (cyclical vomiting syndrome). CVS is defined as episodes of severe vomiting that alternate with basically symptom-free periods of time. They are "cyclical" meaning each episode starts around the same time of day, lasts the same amount of time, and occurs with the same level of severity. The cause of CVS for my son is sugar, dairy, hot weather, and over stimulation (extreme excitement). Thankfully the complications of this disease are minor compared to childhood cancers, diabetes, and other childhood illnesses.
Our only way to treat or prevent these episodes are to avoid sugary foods, dairy, and over-stimulating him. I'm obviously not going to lock my child inside our house every holiday and birthday with no presents, so all I can realistically do is monitor what he eats. Halloween is the worst for him because he's surrounded by a million kids in cool costumes sprinting from house to house trying to get as much candy as possible. Every Halloween I just accept the fact that he will be sick the following day, because it is nearly impossible to find a house or neighborhood that gives out a healthy alternative to candy. Honestly, I get it. People think it's not as fun for the other kids and buying a big bag of candy is super easy and convenient. For my child though, Halloween punishes him with a day of violent vomiting attacks. I know my child is just one kid, but there are thousands of other children who could benefit from this as well.
Please read more about the teal pumpkin project by visiting their website here.
So back to today... Normally my son can have a small amount of sugar from time to time. He doesn't get it very often so when I allow him to have some, it's usually in a controlled environment. Basically he cannot have it when he is going to be overwhelmed with presents or the company of family/friends. Anyway, I forgot to check in with my mother-in-law about dessert for last night's birthday party at her house. She was so sweet and bought super hero cupcakes. It was entirely my fault for forgetting to mention something about dessert earlier. Of course, I let him have a cupcake and hoped he could handle it. Well, the cupcake mixed with the thrill of new presents and playing with his cousin was unfortunately enough to ruin his day today.
I'm so sorry little man! I obviously felt horrible this morning... These pictures break my heart, but hopefully his story will inspire more people to have an allergy friendly alternative to hand out this Halloween.
10 ideas for non sugary "treats" to hand out this year
- -Crayons or other art supplies (stickers, felt letters, non toxic/washable paint, beads &string, etc.)
- -Glow sticks/bracelets
- -Coins. Who doesn't have a coin jar with a bunch of pennies and nickels? I know my son loves adding money to his piggy bank- even a penny. (This is for the older kids! definitely don't give coins to a baby!)
- -Play Doh
- -Adhesive toy mustaches, face masks, or silly glasses
- -Children's books (This is more expensive, but you could alternate with less expensive items)
- -Cool band aids like these big foot band aids
- -magnifying glass, deck of cards, dice, story cubes, etc.
If you are interested in handing out a clean treat or non candy alternative for kids like mine, please put a teal pumpkin outside your house or download a free printable flyer from the teal pumpkin project website here.
The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).