A New Allergy

And it’s not who you think. Did you know that a person can be allergic to over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment? No? Join the club.

It all started when a certain two-year-old decided to take a bite of his big brother’s shoulder late last summer. Maxon was wearing a shirt and the bite didn’t break the skin so we thought that was the end of it. After tears and ice, of course. But a few weeks later, Maxon complained that his bite still hurt. Upon closer inspection, the area was still a bit red but it still didn’t seem that it had scabbed over or any indication that his skin had broken after all. Just in case, I decided to put a little generic Neosporin on it and stuck a band-aid on it so that Maxon wouldn’t be able to scratch it.

A few days later, the little bit became a blistery mess. Worried that it was not infected, we headed straight to the doctor. It did not appear to be infected and he seemed more puzzled that more redness was actually more under the adhesive of the band-aid than the bite itself. He concluded that he was having an allergic reaction to the latex in the band-aid or the triple ointment itself. He recommended getting an allergy test to confirm which one was the culprit and to not use either product on Maxon until then. And ooh, ooh, lucky for us (read: “lucky”), we already have an allergist on staff and we made an appointment for the first availability, which was not until this past week. I probably would have shrugged off non-food allergies in any other case, but I have heard a latex allergy can be a big deal considering medical and hospital personnel primarily use them. We wouldn’t want the scenario where an emergency causes another emergency.

We started off with the same “scratch” test we did for Cooper but this time, less for food allergies and specifically for latex and the triple ointment and also common environmental allergies. The scratch test yielded very little, but most notably positive for a moderate allergy to cat hair. Oops. Suspecting this may be the case, the allergist recommended doing a “patch” test for latex and triple ointment since these kind of contact allergies tend to show up days later, while the scratch test results are checked after 20 minutes. We left the office with a dime-sized sample of both products stuck to his skin and secured with a large bandage to keep them in place and had an appointment to remove them three days later.

And his skin was absolutely perfect prior to this test.

And his skin was absolutely perfect prior to this test.

What we found three days later was that his skin was reddened and blistered under his bandage, even extending past the dime-sized sample into an area about 1.5 inches in diameter. There was even a spot at a corner of the bandage where there should have been nothing but the doctor concluded it was cross-contamination from when they applied the original patch and a smudge must have been left on the nurse’s glove. What’s alarming about that one was that he had taken a shower and worn several sets of different clothes by then but that first instance of contact was enough to disrupt his skin. Here we are four days later and his skin still boasts a wide red patch, although not blistered anymore.

While this is not a food allergy, it is still a cause for concern. The antibiotic components that make up the triple ointment can be found in other antibiotics, whether in oral or injectable doses. This was just applied to his skin. Who knows what havoc it can wreak when broken down into the bloodstream? We may go back in and test for each specific kind of antibiotic just so we know for sure which one(s) is the culprit and which one may be safe. I’m not sure which one is better: not dealing with the everyday realities of another food allergy or having to remember at some point in the future when I want to apply first-aid or he has to take an oral antibiotic for sickness (he never has) that we need to take to check and double-check the ingredients in the medication. Either way, my brain is already maxed out!

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