“Your Son is a Category VI”

In fourth grade, we went to a well-respected research clinic at the University of Minnesota. Our doctor was a pediatric allergist and immunologist.  He listened and carefully reviewed all of our son’s medical files.  He ordered a round of testing and we made an appointment to meet with him again to review the testing.

Before the second appointment, I received a report in the mail. The top of the report said something like this: These show abnormal results. Please consult your doctor immediately.  Even with a known life-threatening allergy these words can fill a parent with dread.

We sat in the office on the day of our appointment and the doctor said this: Your son has a category 6 allergy to peanuts.  Well, actually, his response was so strong we rated him a Category 6 plus. Our test at this time is not sophisticated enough to accurately measure the immune response in this test.  In laymen’s terms, he blew the test. Currently, we don’t have a test sensitive enough to measure his immune response.  Stunned would be a good word to describe the feeling of hearing news like this.  And we already knew he had a life-threatening allergy.

A pediatrician and mother of severely food allergic children wrote a thoughtful and informative piece where she explains the science of anaphylaxis.   She explains how anaphylaxis can come on as sudden as a summer storm.  You can read about it here. Here is more from an interview with Dr. Mary Tobin, a specialist in allergy and immunology in Chicago’s Rush Univ. Medical Center, about a Category VI diagnosis.

A category six diagnosis feels like you just moved into tornado alley. And the weather forecaster is predicting an unusually long tornado season with  high potential for tornados.

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