I don’t know what made me think of this recently (talking with another mom about antibiotics, maybe?), but I’m wondering if any of you have ever experienced severe allergic reactions in your kids (or yourself) before. ‘Cause we certainly have around here. And because I like to document significant Diehl family history, I thought I should take the time to write this down!

As far as I know, I’m not allergic to anything. Matt one time broke out in hives really badly shortly before Luke was born; I’d just started using OxiClean on our whites at that time, so I stopped that promptly and he’s never had a reaction like that since.

When Luke was nearly six months old, he had already had an ear infection or two, and was on his second round of amoxicillin to try to clear it up (he would later get tubes. Two sets, actually.). On a Friday afternoon, he looked like he had a few bug bites, but I wasn’t too concerned; it was spring and we’d been outside. However, when he woke up on Saturday morning, he looked like this and it was obvious that he was not all that comfortable:

And that was just the beginning.

Later in the day, he looked like this, which necessitated a trip to the ER if I remember correctly. We were kind of freaked out.

And because this was pre-digital-camera days, I didn’t take many pictures of him, but it got worse. He was definitely itchy, and I felt so bad for him!

This kind of reaction is called erythema multiforme minor (or EM minor; EM major is also called Stevens-Johnson syndrome and is very serious). Because it’s not your run-of-the-mill reaction to a drug, my boys will never get anything from the penicillin family again. Oftentimes people think that their child is allergic to a medication because they get a fine, red rash over their body when they are sick and on an antibiotic, and while that can be an allergic reaction, we’ve learned that that’s often just a virus causing that kind of reaction. Clearly, that’s not the case here!

Fast-forward almost 3 years to right after Bennett’s 1st birthday, when he had his second need for an antibiotic (I don’t remember for sure, but he probably also had an ear infection. He had very few so I’m not clear on that.). And a very familiar-looking rash started developing all over his chubby body…you can imagine the dread I felt when I saw those spots! Look at how swollen his eye was!

After a bath later that same day. Look at the spot around his belly button!

And here he is at the height of his reaction. His was far worse than Luke’s had been. If you look closely at his legs, you can see spots where his skin is almost a purple-grey color.

When I was pregnant with Jack Henry, I discussed the other boys’ reactions with our pediatrician and we decided that we’d just act as if Jack Henry is also allergic to the penicillin family and not risk it. I’m so thankful that she was with us through the first two boys’ reactions so that she knew I wasn’t overreacting to what had happened with them!

Have any of you ever experienced anything like this? And if not, wasn’t that educational? Now when your kid has a few red spots, you’ll be freaking out. You’re welcome.

23 responses to “Allergic.

  1. We never had any extreme reactions like your boys did, but either Heidi or Andrea is allergic to penicillin (can you believe I can’t remember for sure–would need to look it up–I think it’s A). Resulted in a fine rash over her entire body.

    Heidi had such an extreme reaction to mosquito bites when she was little, but she just eventually out-grew it. (I remember one time her back looked somewhere b/w pic 2 & 3 of Bennett!) For years, I was very careful to spray her w/ something when she was outside in the evening.

  2. Funny that you posted about this . . .I was just thinking about it the other day. I think Kevin was at your house – painting or something – when you first noticed Luke’s “rash.” I remember seeing pics of Luke, but I don’t know if I saw pictures of Bennett – wow, that was scary!!

  3. Wow, thank goodness we have never experienced anything like that. Those poor little guys and poor you, I would obsolutely FREAK out! As far as I know neither of the girls have any allergies, however, only time will tell.

  4. Both of my kids have super sensitive skin. I always have to use unscented wipes, lotions and bath soap. Sean had one nasty reaction that covered his entire body but his one ear was completely red. We think it was eyedrops to treat pinkeye. Lyndsey was once covered head to toe in hives from what we think was a reaction to cholrine in a swimming pool. I love how our doctor’s office just says that we will probably never know what causes rashes.
    Whenever the kids had the rashes, I felt like we couldn’t leave the house because people would freak out when they saw them.

  5. I haven’t dealt with anything like this with Bailey- but I have a severe penicillin allergy (it developed over years and last time I took it I ended up in an ambulance on oxygen so yeah it’s pretty bad). I was so scared to give Bailey amoxicillin for her ear infection when she was smaller but she didn’t have a reaction. That is the only antibiotic she’s been on, though, so it still makes me nervous!

  6. Oh my goodness! Grace woke up like that THIS MORNING! I rushed her to the doctor and they determined that she is allergic to the antibiotic we began on Monday for her bronchitis. Her skin looked pathetic, just like your pictures. It had also aggravated her breathing, which was pretty scary. We’re now giving her hardcore steroids and breathing treatments. No more Omnicef in her future!

  7. Andrew is allergic to penicillin also! That didn’t show up until he was 5 though I think…..4 or 5, sad I can’t remember? He had a very fine rash that covered his entire body.

    I think it’s weird that Andrew had taken numerous doses of antibiotics and it didn’t show up until then…..

  8. I remember coming over to your house and seeing Luke like this. It must have been on that Sunday before heading back to KC. Colin has has two reactions like this. It looked alot like Bennett’s more severe reaction. We finally figured out that it had to have been shellfish because both times he had eaten shrimp.

  9. Seriously! That freaks me out NOW and I know they’re perfectly fine!

  10. Wow, that is scary! My girls and I have what they call “side affects” to penicillin. They included SEVERE vomiting and diarrhea. Its the WORST. I’ve had people constantly tell me this is not a allergic reaction its a side affect. I don’t care what they want to call it, my girls won’t have it. PERIOD. Last thing I need is ANOTHER terrible symptom.

    On the rash topic Reagan had a funny rash onetime. I forget the name of the virus. But its something you can have for a long time, some people carry it for YEARS. Its a touch sensitive rash. I tested it by “writing” my name on her arm. It raised up and looked wicked. Very weird. Luckily she only battle it a month or so.

  11. Hunter is allergic to Amoxicillin. Scared the crap out of me when it happened. They put him on steriods to get rid of it which turned the red spots black and blue.. It looked like I beat him. So sad. adults would not be able to put up with the itch and discomfort. it didnt seem to phase him,.. thank goodness. Glad you were able to figure this out!

  12. I had a really bad rash (maybe like this? I don’t really know) when I was a baby after PCN. What I’ve been told is that if you get the rash it means you’re allergic but you could react differently every time. Like, the next time there could be nothing at all and then the next, your throat could swell shut. Kind of scary.

  13. Nicole – I’m allergic to penicillin too so it runs on your dad’s side of the family. Sounds like the boys are getting it from both sides of the genes. And yes – I’ve slacked at catching up on reading your blog.

  14. Im interested to hear how you handled this rash! I was searching the topic because I think my daughter may have this and your blog appeared. If you would email me, that would be extremely helpful!


  15. My 16 month old son was diagnosed with erythema multiforme minor on Novermber 26,2011 and it is December 5th and we have not figured out what caused it. I’m horribly scared its going to turn into SJD. We didn’t change anything in our daily activity’s or food or medicine it just showed up out of no where. I thought it was a diaper rash then the next day he looked like the 4th picture you have up and it comes and goes every few days. He woke up from his nap today actually and it looked like it had cleared up and I gave him juice and bam it came back it started on his legs the moved to his chest and arms. I’ve gone to the ER and his pediatrician and they say they can’t do anything for him but told me to give him Benadryl and Zyrtec. Do you have any suggestions for me because as of now I’m absolutely clueless and scared at the same time.

  16. Pingback: Strange, but Harmless | Here's the Diehl

  17. Hi really good of you to share your story. I teach anaphylaxis (i am a nurse)and was looking on line for a good example of a sore, itchy, allergic rash and the one above of Bennett’s 1st birthday, where you talk about around the belly button, is good. I would love to use it as an example of how bad a rash can start to become but don’t want to use it without asking you. Hope thats ok because the more people understand, the faster help can be hopefully obtained.

  18. Charity Hill-Gant

    How long did this reaction last? My daughter is having the exact same thing happen. Hers flared and looked like that. We are on a steroid and Benadryl for 5 days. Looked like it was all gone and just came back. Looking for some advice.

    • I’m sorry I’m just now seeing this, and SO sorry your daughter is having this kind of reaction! Both boys took several days for their hives to calm down, and remnants remained for a long while after steroid treatment was over, but they didn’t flare up like this. Hope she’s doing ok!

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