Friday, June 10, 2011

Red Dye is the Devil in Liquid Form (title by Hubby)

So, have I mentioned how much we, at my house, hate red dye ? Well, we do. Like a lot. In my professional role, I've recently started educating people about red dye, and the effects it can have on their kids. So, I thought I'd go more into detail here as well. I might even give you more than just my anecdotal experience.

People always ask about how we discovered the link between the kid's sometimes craziness and red dye. So here it is... the kid was 2ish and had a really bad stomach bug. Like so bad he was laying on the floor, not moving at all except to turn over and puke. For more than an hour. Now, if you know my kid, you know this lack of movement is highly unusual. Hubby went to the pharmacy and asked what was safe to give him. He came home with an anti nausea medication - a very red one (not that we paid any attention to it at the time), purportedly safe for young children. Hubby gave it to him. He was up - no joke -and running laps around oue house in less than 5 minutes. This child, who had been immobile for more than an hour, was up running laps around my house. He ran, and ran, and ran, and ran. Like for 45 minutes straight. No stopping. There was this look in his eyes, totally crazy, and kind of freaking out. He literally couldn't stop himself. It's not like he was being bad,  he simply couldn't control himself; it was not a choice. It became obvious that something was amiss.

I dismissed it because I had puke to clean up and a (sort of) sick kiddo to deal with. But it kept nagging at me, and I started thinking about the other times we'd seen the kid be so completely out of control. When he drank cranberry juice. When he had candy (which was/is unusual anyway), especially a candy cane. When he had an antibiotic. The common thread? All of these things had red dye in them. Red dye 40, to be specific.  

One time the kid was prescribed an antibiotic. I didn't think he needed it, but he'd been wheezing and coughing for weeks, so I was willing to give it a shot. It was pink. 1 day on the antibiotic = 1 crazy kid (and 2 crazy parents, and several crazy child care providers). So, we discontinued it and told the pediatrician if she wanted him to complete a round of antibiotics, she was going to have to find one that didn't have red dye in it. It took her, the nurse, and a pharmacist an hour to find the one and only antibiotic for kids without red dye in it. (And, no, I don't remember what it was - it's in his chart.) Only 1 antibiotic red dye-free, that's it. Isn't that crazy?! He took it and didn't get crazy (or better).

So, what happens when he does have it? Well, the actual behaviors themselves vary, but overall what we see is a general increase in his level of activity (hyperactivity) and a decrease in ability to self-regulate emotions or impulses. Here's a recent picture of what can happen. He had a purple snocone at school (apparently they forgot that whole kindergarten lesson that purple = blue + red). We knew he was "under the influence" so we sent him outside to run off some energy. Apparently we didn't supervise him quite as closely as we thought. We called him in for dinner and later found the following outside. He took an entire bag of potting soil that was sitting innocently on the deck, and scattered it all over the place. (We had swept it more into a pile before I took these pics.) We didn't discipline him for this, because, really, he isn't in control of himself and it's really just not his fault.

Right now we have good control over his diet, and make sure to not allow anything that even might have red dye in it. I worry about when he starts kindergarten at public school in the fall. I keep trying to remind myself that kids with all kinds of food allergies (not that that's what this is; I think it's more of a sensitivity) do just fine, but it's hard to not worry. That, however, is a post for another day.  The kid is actually (usually) really good about monitoring food to make sure there's no red dye in it, which is awesome. So, here is a good resource for some additional information about red dye, beyond just my experience and opinion. You know, in case you don't wanna just take my word for it.

Today's lesson: Red dye is, indeed, the devil. Or at least, is the liquid product thereof.


SuperMommySometimes said...

Totally agree!!! We avoid it like the plague. I have read some scary research studies AND have seen the "evidence" myself with my 5 year old...

Becky said...

If you have the studies/know details, I'd love the links to read them!I came across one study once, but now have no idea where.

Amanda said...

I completely agree with you. I can even tell that it makes me feel a little crazy.