This week is food allergy awareness week. Over the next five days, I’ll be handing over my blog to parents whose children suffer from allergies in a bid to raise awareness and eliminate any associated misconceptions.
My name’s Collette and my blog is Truly Madly Cuckoo. I started blogging back in 2009 just as an online diary to document my family life. I have four children aged 17, 13 and 7 year old twins. We live in a beautiful market town in North Yorkshire and we spend our time visiting the gorgeous surrounding countryside or being a groupie to my husband’s band!
1. Who suffers from allergies in your family, when were they diagnosed and what allergies do they have?
Both my eldest son’s suffer from allergies, but my 13 year old suffers the most. He was diagnosed as having severe allergies to nuts, eggs and fish at the age of one, they showed up during the weaning stage.
2. How long was the process of diagnosis, tell us about your experience?
After my son’s first allergic reaction to fish at the age of one, we were referred to an allergy specialist fairly quickly. Skin prick tests and a blood test revealed the other allergies he has which also include cats and dust. He was prescribed Piriton from an early age, but not EpiPen’s. The epi pens were prescribed at the age of two when he had a major reaction to a peanut.
3. How do these allergies affect you and your families on a day to day basis?
Allergies affect our lives constantly, even though my son is now 13 we have to be vigilant about where we eat, how we travel and we need to ensure he carries his meds everywhere. My son also has severe eczema and asthma which is linked to his allergies. When my son was two he experienced a huge allergic reaction to a peanut when we were on holiday. He only touched the peanut and didn’t eat it – thank goodness! We were airlifted by helicopter to Bangor hospital, where he recovered with antihistamines. He was prescribed EpiPen’s from this point.
4. Have your child’s allergies impacted your travel, if so how?
We have to notify the airline before we fly and they have always announced that they won’t serve nuts on the flight. We clean his seating area with wipes, as people may have consumed nuts on the previous flight. We have eaten “all inclusive” on holiday, but we inform the chef at the hotel. My son tends to stick to the same foods for the whole duration that he knows are safe. As he is allergic to fish too, he has had minor reactions to traces of fish in restaurants. His minor reactions cause hives and itching. When he reacts more severely he suffers from swelling which spreads around his lips, mouth and eye area. We love holidaying at Center Parcs too and have found them to be excellent with allergies.
5. If your child is old enough, do they understand their allergies? If not, how do you plan to explain it to them in the future?
My son fully understands and is extremely careful as to what he eats. During Primary school he was in a nut free environment, but this is impossible at secondary school. He does need constantly reminding to make sure he has his medication and it’s usually left up to me to check!
6. Do you feel that people are understanding of your child’s allergies? If not, why do you think this is?
Some people are understanding, but some certainly aren’t. Our family have been the worst – they don’t seem to understand the importance, it’s a contentious issue! When at primary school my son experienced another child trying to taunt him into eating nuts. He was literally waving an open packet of nuts in his face. Thankfully this hasn’t happened since. I have found teachers to be a little disinterested in keeping school nut free and have had to ask for peanuts to be taken out of the staff room. Also, communication between teachers has been a little poor. At secondary school, there are trained nurses on site which has been reassuring. I don’t think people are aware that an allergic reaction can be life-threatening.
7. Are there any resources or websites which you’ve found particularly helpful?
I have joined a few Facebook sites for parents of children with allergies, which has been useful as well as supportive. In the early days, I looked at some websites for information.
8. What advice would you give to any parent whose child has just been diagnosed with an allergy?
Try to get as much information and support as possible. You will very quickly become your child’s advocate in order to keep them safe. Get school on board and try to remain calm.
It’s Food Allergy Awareness week from 13-19th May. Make sure you pop back for more Q&A’s!