A mum has shared how a milk allergy caused her baby to produce ‘acid water’ and suffer from bleeding, blistered skin.
Charlotte Smallwood, 25, from Romford, Essex, noticed problems with baby Arthur’s skin the day after he was born in April 2020.
His face was patchy and swollen, which doctors reportedly dismissed as baby acne and swelling due to being born by caesarean.
But when Arthur was taken home and started having infant formula, he began suffering episodes of screaming after eating, vomiting up the formula and arching his back in pain.
Charlotte says the GP advised it was reflux and colic, but Charlotte and husband Lewis’, 28, first child, three-year-old Thea, had suffered from both those conditions – and she believed there was something more to her son’s extreme reactions.
After swapping Arthur’s milk back to pre-made bottles she saw an improvement in his behaviour but the symptoms soon started up again.
She tried over the counter colic and reflux medicines but nothing helped the poor baby, who was “constantly upset” and barely sleeping.
Arthur was also suffering with severe cradle cap and constipation, and at four weeks old patches of eczema appeared on his cheeks and arms.
“From one to four months old, I was back and forth on the phone to the doctor,” Charlotte said.
“He was given antibiotics, mild steroid creams, bath creams and over the counter creams – nothing helped, it just made him worse and worse.
“Some creams would even make him look as though he had been burned.”
Charlotte believed that the milk was the problem but claims doctors continuously insisted Arthur did not have a cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA), which could explain his sore skin.
CMPA is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system in which proteins in cow’s milk are recognised as a threat – which can cause the immune system to be sensitised and produce allergic symptoms.
Unable to get a face-to-face appointment due to Covid-19 restrictions, Charlotte took Arthur to A&E. Within 10 minutes, he was diagnosed with CMPA and severe infected eczema.
Doctors prescribed Arthur a new formula, stronger steroid creams and bath creams, and within a week his skin started to clear up.
But when Charlotte tried to wean him off it, the skin issues came back with a vengeance.
She said: “The eczema and reactions grew worse and worse, and in the end his skin was reacting to everything that went into or onto his body.
“His skin and bowels would bear the brunt of his reactions – he would have uncontrollable bowel movements that were like acid water, which left him blistered and raw.
“It seemed as though whatever had just gone into him was trying to get out via his skin.
“He couldn’t do anything – he never laughed, couldn’t roll, sit up, play or grab things.”
Charlotte felt “overwhelmed” trying to help her son when everything seemed to either have no affect or make him worse.
She said: “The toughest part was watching Arthur scream, cry, scratch, throw himself around and bleed.
“He would be absolutely uncontrollable and inconsolable.
“Knowing that there wasn’t anything that I could do to help my child was absolutely heart breaking.
“The sleep deprivation was something else – I went seven months without sleeping more than three hours of broken sleep a night.
“Arthur would just scratch, cry and scream all night long. I had to wrap his arm up close to his body just so he would stop scratching for five minutes.
“His sister would get very upset watching him and it was tough trying to explain things to her.
“She would give me a cuddle when I would break down in tears, which was a lot.”
In October, Arthur was taken again to A&E after a bad reaction to a teething gel.
His dietician pushed for an appointment at Homerton University Hospital in London for allergy tests when he was seven months old.
Sadly, the condition of his skin was then too severe to carry out allergy testing and his body was 98% covered in severe eczema.
“We went home feeling very deflated and wondering how long we would have to wait for someone to see him again,” Charlotte said.
“But I received a phone call the next day from the Homerton children’s dermatology department asking me to take him there that second – we couldn’t believe it.”
When Arthur was seen by the specialists, Charlotte said they were “shocked” and “disgusted” by how previous doctors had cared for his skin and couldn’t understand how he had been left so long without proper treatment.
His new dermatologist gave him a strict skin routine which should help within one week.
The mum said: “At the time, I was very sceptical and didn’t believe them, but he was clear in just 24 hours.
“By the end of the first week, he was laughing, rolling, sitting up, grabbing things and playing.
“I could change his nappy on my own without him scratching and he slept through the night for the first time ever.
“His big sister found it so amazing that she could finally play with her baby brother as she couldn’t touch him before.”
Now, sweet Arthur is flourishing and only suffers mild eczema flare-ups occasionally, caused by environmental factors such as dust and washing detergents.
He is still on the special formula but is weaning and “loving” all of his food, having had his allergies retested.
Charlotte is careful to read food labels to ensure no dairy gets into Arthur’s diet, which would cause another devastating flare-up.
She added: “A lot of doctors seem very standoffish when it comes to CMPA, sort of like they don’t believe it’s a real allergy.
“I have come across many people and children like our family that have gone through the same situation.
“But do not give up and don’t be scared to go over somebodies head to get to where your child needs to be.
“Arthur is now a happy, healthy 10-month-old who is thriving – he has come so far.”