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Sunday, August 14, 2005  

Care Not for Carrots

When we first met M. Small's birth parents, they already knew that he was developing normally and healthily. So we knew the kid wasn't going to come out with half a bowel or something. The main thing I was worried about was allergies. Seems like everybody's allergic to something, especially kids. You hear about these kids with such severe peanut allergies that they go into anaphylactic shock if somebody brushes them with a Charles Schulz cartoon. Or maybe that's just me.

Obviously if he turned out to be lactose-intolerant or allergic to gluten or water or something, we'd deal with it, but we'd prefer not to have to. As it turned out, the only concession we had to make to any special dietary needs was giving him special preemie formula with a higher caloric content. And, you know, that worked.

When we started him on baby food around six months, they told us to only start one food at a time and not to give him more then one new kind of food in a three-day period. That way, if he turned out to be allergic to something, we'd have already isolated it and wouldn't have to go through a lot of tedious trial and error.

Peas? Fine. Sweet potatoes? Fine. Green beans? Fine. Squash? Fine. Carrots? His throat closed up later that night and made his breathing sound like a muted trumpet being played by an elephant in a wet balloon. But other than that, fine.

If you get a reaction after introducing a certain food, you're supposed to try it two more times to be sure it's that and not some other environmental factor you may not be aware of. On the doctor's advice, we tried carrots again a couple of weeks later, but in a smaller serving and with other food. The reaction was proportionally smaller, but it was still there. On the doctor's advice, we skipped the third attempt. It seems that like our new U.N. ambassador, my son doesn't do carrots.

As allergies went, we thought, this was a fairly innocuous one. Carrots are easy to avoid, after all. Asking them to be left off your house salad is the biggest hardship you'll ever face if you have a carrot allergy. You might not ever be cast in a live-action production of Watership Down, but it's not going to be hard to find an upside to that.

So Trash and I counted ourselves lucky that the biggest problem in feeding M. Small was going to be a heavier rotation of all the other stage-one vegetables. We looked forward to stages two and three with relish. If we'd known then what we know now.

You know what single ingredient is in the greatest percentage of mixed stage-two and stage-three baby foods? As it turns out, it's not carrots. It's water. And then it's carrots.

I can understand that a jar labeled "Garden Vegetables" is going to have carrots. I can even understand that carrots would be the first ingredient on the list (after water, of course). It doesn't surprise me to see that "Roast Beef and Vegetable Dinner" has plenty of carrots. My own roast beef and vegetable dinners have plenty of carrots.

You know what I don't use lots of carrots in? Lasagna. I've made lasagna many times (once from scratch), and never once has a carrot gone into the mix, let alone more carrots than anything else. Same with spaghetti. Trash makes this amazing spaghetti that has about nine hundred ingredients. Carrots are not among them. And yet these are the second item in the ingredient list on the baby-food version of both of these meals, as well as any number of others where you wouldn't expect to find carrots. I mean, peach cobbler? Please.

It makes a cynical kind of sense, I suppose. Carrots are probably a cheap filler ingredient -- unlike shiitake mushrooms, for example -- that they can use a lot of. And doing so with carrots won't piss off the FDA -- unlike grass, for example. You don't see peanuts in baby food, because lots of kids turn up allergic to those, but who's allergic to carrots? It's like being allergic to celery. It's basically water in vegetable form. What could be more innocuous?

But, of course, my boy is special.

Don't worry, I do realize just how lucky we are that he's not allergic to water or air like some kids are. I'm a little disappointed that he can't experience spaghetti or lasagna until he's old enough to enjoy the carrot-free varieties that Trash and I will make for him (although the latter will be disappointment if he turns out to be allergic to barbecue sauce as well). But then, any carrot-intensive versions of those wouldn't be any sort of spaghetti or lasagna we'd recognize, anyway.

And please don't suggest a baby food-processor, because life's too short and babyhood's even shorter. Yesterday he had part of my gyro. I was just glad I'd thought to order it without carrots.

Today's best search phrase: "pizza man delivers pizza to a house the , girl sucks his from inside the pizza." I'd feel more qualified to comment on that if I didn't feel so out of touch with pop culture these days.

posted by M. Giant 5:11 PM 23 comments


We were discussing this issue yesterday. We visited some friends whose otherwise delightful baby is extremely allergic to dogs. We're planning on having a kid soon, and we're terrified that it'll be allergic to our first-born aka the dog. What is it with kids these days? If they're not listening to their hippity hop, they're going into anaphylactic shock. Seriously though, it kinda freaks me out.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 14, 2005 at 5:31 PM  

It freaks me right out too. When we were kids and someone had "allergies" it meant they had snotty noses in the spring. Now entire SCHOOLS have to ban foods cause if you whisper "cashew" too loud, some kid keels over. What the hell happened?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 14, 2005 at 5:44 PM  

I love hearing your stories about M. Small and the cats. My mother has severe anaphylactic allergic reactions to all nut and peanut products, and she's amused by the increase in allergy awareness. She carries 2 EpiPens and a supply of Benadryl tablets on her at all times, and so far she's made it to 63. Your boy will make it too.

By Anonymous Divaah46, at August 14, 2005 at 6:01 PM  

I love hearing your stories about M. Small and the cats. My mother has severe anaphylactic allergic reactions to all nut and peanut products, and she's amused by the increase in allergy awareness. She carries 2 EpiPens and a supply of Benadryl tablets on her at all times, and so far she's made it to 63. Your boy will make it too.

By Anonymous Divaah46, at August 14, 2005 at 6:02 PM  

He may outgrow the carrot allergy. My daughter projectile vomited carrots (and only carrots) the 1st two times we gave them to her. By the time she was a little over a year, she was eating them just fine. I know, not much of a consolation during the baby food stage! Maybe try an organic line like Earth's Best to see if they don't put them in everything?

By Blogger librarianpm, at August 14, 2005 at 6:20 PM  

Seriously the world has gone bad. I had asthma as a kid (occaisonally took a puffer, mostly just sometimes had to slow my breathing carefully)...but after about six years of no puffer carrying, I ended up in hospital yesterday needing more treatment than ever.

By Blogger jen, at August 14, 2005 at 7:06 PM  

Speaking of allergies...my mother raised 7 kids. Recently I received a desperate phone call, "Your brother has a prescription for penicillin and we can't remember if he is allergic to it!!! You need to call me ASAP!" Geniuses. The only kid with allergies was ME, the youngest one. How hard is that to remember? I am allergic to horses, dogs, cats, dust mites, penicillins, macrolides and nuts. I'm so fun. Why don't you go ahead and get M. Small a carrot tattoo so you never have these problems?

By Anonymous Sayer, at August 14, 2005 at 7:20 PM  

My toddler is allergic to peanuts, and I just want to say thanks for the tip about the Charles Schulz cartoons!

By Blogger Nancy, at August 14, 2005 at 7:28 PM  

Too many carrots can also turn your child ORANGE. And when your child is a redhead, orange skin isn't too flattering. We had trouble with the carrots in stage 2 and 3 foods as well and just started making our own. It isn't that hard, just throw well cooked veggies, rice or pasta, some meat, and maybe some cream of chicken or mushroom soup, water in a processor, whir... and there's your baby food.

By Anonymous mrscrumley, at August 15, 2005 at 3:30 AM  

Carrot allergies turn out to be pretty common, maybe 25% of food allergies, and there does seem to be something about the damn things.


I dunno, man. You COULD try home-cooking some, as the baby food mafia probably grinds them up raw and then pasteurizes the mixture, but in all likelihood what'll work best is for him to give me his carrots, and he can have my tomatoes.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at August 15, 2005 at 8:47 AM  

While I do not put carrots in my spaghetti my mom occasionally throws some in hers. She started it when I was like 22 so one day at dinner there was a big HUH? moment but we all just kpet eating.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 15, 2005 at 9:36 AM  

You know who else was allergic to carrots? Mel Blanc.

By Blogger a Carrie, at August 15, 2005 at 10:11 AM  

Life is too short to make your own baby food UNLESS you're already making something anyway. Whenever I was making something for the rest of the family I would just throw a cup or so of it into the food processor and freeze it in ice cube trays. One or two ice cubes is about a single serving size. Well rounded meals - thawed when ready. Convenient and way less expensive than commercial baby food. - Trish

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 15, 2005 at 3:42 PM  

Drat, I thought my son was unique because of his carrot allergy and now I find out it's almost as common as his allergy to sulfa drugs. The good news is that he outgrew the carrot allergy by the time he was 10 and now thinks baby carrots are an acceptable potato chip substitution. The bad news is that's the only veggie he'll willingly eat.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 16, 2005 at 11:42 PM  

I have a similar reaction to carrots, but not to organic carrots for some reason.

I ate carrots all the time as a child and then in college my roommates almost had to take me to the ER after I ate a bag of baby carrots while studying (the little, peeled carrots, not baby food carrots). Finally after an hour, I could breathe normally.

Cooking them doesn't help, either.

However, I do find that I can eat organic baby carrots without a problem - not even that scratchy-throat-ear-tickly warning feeling.

I know you may not even want to try it with M.Small...


p.s. In answer to Trash's post, I just wanted to agree with everyone who said "trust yourself" on the baby deal. Ask the pediatrician what the "really really bad" signs are, and wing the rest. It really works best.

My husband (laughingly) claims that doctors don't really have any answers to what's bothering children from 1-2 years old - he says the pediatricians have a dartboard in their office which they consult in constructing our diagnosis. I love our doctors and am not disparaging them, but I agree with my husband. Both our sons have severe GERD, which they take medicine for (and we're grateful for the doctors and the meds!), but we find that for most anything that bothers little kids, Advil, time, and arms (being held, that is) cures most of it. Once our oldest was 3, he could accurately tell us what was wrong. (Before he showed signs of the chicken pox, he complained for 2 days about his head being "wattely".)

ok, I'm rambling here, but I had one more thing to say. I don't want to start a flame war, but please don't buy anything by Dr. Sears. Unless, of course, you like to feel guilty for breathing without Jr.'s permission. Seriously, we all have enough guilt without this guy pouring it on thick about how all your children's problems are really your fault. I followed his instructions for 10 months and ended up on medication and in therapy. (of course, I had other issues - insert nervous laugh here - Dr. Sears is well-meaning, but seriously misguided).

Ok, I'm done now. Cheers to you, and thanks for not giving up the blog!

By Anonymous Leah Smith, at August 17, 2005 at 8:13 PM  

I've heard that carrots are used to cleanse land from various contaminants. Just harvest a crop or two and then test the soil. Of course, you'd throw those carrots away.

By Blogger just sayin', at August 19, 2005 at 9:52 AM  

I'm 22 years old and I've been allergic to carrots since I was 8..or at least thats when we discovered that.
One of my allergists says that my carrot allergy may be linked to my tree allergies (birch and oak) and that several foods are known to cross react with other allergies including ragweed and pollen. Allergists advise me to stay away from other potential foods that may cross react like celery, parsley, potatoes and even kiwi (which ill admit gives me a weird oral sensation) but those foods really dont bother me much. Carrots on the other hand have sent me into full anaphylactic shock so scary and serious that I carry an epipen with me at all times. Allergy shots are an option but I hesitate because an allergy shot is pretty much the essence of the allergen and injecting straight carrot oil into my bloodstream is a less than appealing idea.
Its a harder allergy to live with than you might think. Its common but its usually the lesser allergy in an allergic person so its often understated. Since its lesser known than say a peanut allergy, people in restaurants will raise an eyebrow and consider you a picky customer more often than you may like. Also, its orange color makes it difficult to spot in many Italian and Spanish dishes where carrot is often shaved or ground right into sauce or rice respectively. I've had crazy reactions that ended with a trip to the hospital from the arroz con pollo i ordered for lunch. And a lot of places will use carrots as a garnish or worse simply pick visible carrots out of your already carrot-infested food... Scary...really scary.
But on the other hand I've eaten freeze dried carrots and been fine though i would never elect to ingest a carrot on the off chance that my immune system goes haywire. So i read the ingredient list on everything i purchase and grill waiters and waitresses and sometimes even ask to speak with the cook in restaurants. I've had too many episodes to not be cautious.
My first reaction was when i was 8. My mother, tired of my then growing candy addiction, sat me in front of a whole bowl of carrots. My mouth itched and tinged the whole time but rather than tell my mother what was going on, i just scratched at my tongue with the fork. Then, feeling sick 5 monutes later I walked into the bathroom and my fever shot up so fast that I thought the apartment caught fire. I remember it so vividly...I was experienceing something scary and coulndt find the words to help myself. My mother figured it out. My advice, for what its worth, to parents is to listen to your kids if they say a food makes their mouth feel funny or if a food tickles them. Also observe behavior that on the surface may seem like the behavior of a picky eater. Kids cant usually articulate whats going on when their body is reacting to something foreign that theyve never experienced before.

By Anonymous Leigh, at April 25, 2006 at 11:58 AM  

Think about other illnesses that have popped up since we were children-namely ADHD (whoever heard of that in the 70s), juvenile diabetes, allergies a plenty...what is different these days? VACCINES. Look into it- investigate the "illnesses" we vaccinate our children against and you will find that they are more likely to have an adverse reaction to the innoculation than to die from the disease. Not to mention vaccines are made with MONKEY tissue to cultivate the antibodies...doesn't that just seem wrong? It HAS to mess with their systems somehow and I think we are just seeing the beginning...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 22, 2007 at 4:39 AM  

I just found out my grandaughter is allergic to carrots too, I'd never of a carrot allergy before! In going through the shelf of baby food I keep at home for babysitting purposes I discovered the same problem you did - almost every mixed food has carrots in it! I am dumbfounded - that really limits what we can feed her considering there aren't that many alternatives to begin with.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 16, 2007 at 7:41 PM  

I came across this looking for info on the carrot allergy. My son has a rash after eating carrots. we were told try again after a few weeks. Same result. My wife, a scientist, read the NIH link. Very helpful.

"Anonymous said...
Think about other illnesses that have popped up since we were children-namely ADHD (whoever heard of that in the 70s), juvenile diabetes, allergies a plenty...what is different these days?

ADHD- over stimulation, reduction of physical activities, and lay person diagnosis.

Juvenile diabetes- Lack of physical activities, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle.

Allergies- sedentary lifestyles that result in long times spent inside, poor diet does not help either.

They had vaccines in the 70's. Most of what kids got then, they get now. Most "advocates" talk about MMR. MMR was developed in 1963.

"Not to mention vaccines are made with MONKEY tissue to cultivate the antibodies.."
Vaccines are cultivated in chicken eggs.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 23, 2008 at 5:43 PM  

Hilarious commentary! "You might not ever be cast in a live-action production of Watership Down, but it's not going to be hard to find an upside to that."
Thanks for writing.

By Blogger Conquer, at October 15, 2008 at 12:25 PM  

my daughter is 7 and allergic to carrots. She knows the first thing to tell people is her allergy. and if you go out to it, order all carrot free food. It can be done. Just make sure the kids know what to look for at school lunches.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 29, 2008 at 3:04 AM  

It would take less time for you to make your own carrot-free baby food than it took to read all those labels to find out if they had carrots in them. I know this because I have food allergies. I spend a lot of time reading labels in stores. I decided to make my own baby food right off the bat because of the likely hood of my son inheriting them. But I will never treat HIM like a pain in the ass (unless he is actually being one) about this issue, just the major food companies that resisted labeling and still don't identify major allergens like gluten.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 30, 2009 at 8:39 AM  

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