Monday, 27 April 2015

Being a Parent to a Food Allergic Child

Yesterday I wrote about food allergies from an adult perspective, my perspective. I linked to Allergy UK, and they're using the #Livinginfear.

Today I'm going to write about being a parent of a child/children with food allergies to show you what it is like.

I want you to imagine you're a 9 year old girl, getting ready to go to a disco that you've been excited about all week.

You haven't eaten anything different to normal, but you feel a bit unwell.  You don't want to be told that you'd better not go to the disco, so you don't say anything.

Whilst at the disco you feel worse, you spend most of it in the bathroom, you get a drink, but can't swallow it properly because your throat feels funny, you get an ice-pole and that helps, but you still don't say anything to the adults at the disco because you don't want to get sent home and miss all of the fun.

Once home, you rush to the bathroom again, saying you don't feel well and your throat hurts.

I, being the mum of the said 9 year old, assume she's been shouting over the music and is just feeling unwell, as she suffers from stomach migraine, I intend to give her Calpol when she comes down, then I hear a shout, so I go up to see her.

I see a very pale looking L with dark rings under her eyes, obviously a poorly girl, who now says she is itchy.  This immediately makes me think 'reaction' and so I reach for the Piriton and give her a double dose.  Now the whole story comes out about how she started to feel unwell half way through eating her Snickers bar before going to the disco, and alarm bells ring. Peanuts! She's never had a problem with them before though.

Should I call for an ambulance? 

Am I over-reacting?

Apart from feeling itchy and saying her throat feels funny.  She's breathing fine, she's making sense and not feeling faint (I checked) I look in her mouth and her throat isn't swollen, but she's out of the bathroom and asking for a snack. 

What would you do?

I rang 111 and asked for advice.

They spoke to L and decided she could do with checking out at the hospital but that I could take her as she was coherent and laughing and joking with the man on the phone, but that if her condition changed at all either before we left, or on the way I was to call 999 immediately and wait for the ambulance.

She was fine, luckily and after a 3 1/2 hour wait I was aloud to take her home after the Dr checked that I was aware of secondary reactions. 

I didn't sleep that night, I couldn't, I kept having to check she was ok, that she was still breathing.

We had to wait 9 months for an appointment at the allergy clinic, I know a parent who has waited over 18 months for one!  During which time we were told not to allow her to have anything which said may contain nuts.  Quite a difficult job, especially when manufacturers put it on things like tins of baked beans!

L now, like me carries antihistamine and epipens, she has 2 in her bag, which goes wherever she does, and 2 at school. 

Her skin prick tests all came back clear, even the peanut one was only just classed as an allergy, and her blood tests all came back clear, but, because of how she reacted she has a diagnosed peanut allergy, we can allow may contain nuts, but not may contain peanuts, and if she wants to we can cautiously allow her to try other nuts.

Now imagine letting your child out to a party, it's bad enough if the party is at a restaurant, most of them are, thankfully, pretty good with allergy menus and some places don't use anything with peanuts in at all.  However it's more scary letting her go to a party at a house with a buffet.  The friends she has now all have very understanding parents, a few have children with allergies or intolerances themselves and have all been really good with her, checking everything before allowing her to eat, it is more difficult at large gatherings with buffets that are already out when you get there though, for me and L. 

Fast forward a few years to senior school. 

I have two children at senior school, and I don't know most of their friends parents well.  I am sure when I tell L's new friends parents about her allergy, they will all look out for her, and she will hopefully speak up for herself if she's not sure. 

However, once they're at seniors, they become more independent, they go into town and want milkshakes from those places that whizz up a chocolate bar with the milk.  Now currently I don't let her have a milkshake from there in case of cross contamination, I also avoid them.  If we want a milkshake, we head for McDonalds (peanut free, and very clear allergy advice.)  Put yourself in her position, your in a group of friends, possibly new friends, you don't want to look different to everyone, you don't want to be a pain by having to go somewhere else, or not have a drink.  Do you risk it?  You won't be silly and order a Reece's cup milkshake!  You'll play it safe and go for a Crunchie, or Skittles, something you know is safe.  The risk of cross contamination is there though.  Switch peanuts to bleach, would you want your children drinking one?  Scary to think about!

Fast forward a few more years and she's out partying and there's a boy she likes.  Everyone's been eating the nibbles, L's been careful with what she's eaten.  Then a slow dance comes on, he's not, yes, yes he is, he's asking her to dance, she's so happy, they kiss.  He's eaten a chicken satay skewer....

Or...the scenarios are endless.

Currently I don't think L's reaction is as bad as that, however the more reactions you have the worse they tend to get, so who knows how she will be in a few years time? There are children out there who are that bad now.  Whose parents are facing those dilemmas every day.  It's a tough and scary job being a parent to a child with food allergies.

Both L and R along with myself, have had mild reactions to unknown foods, I've kept food diaries, but can't pin point anything, it could be an additive, or a preservative.  I try to make most of our food, but it's not practical or economical all of the time, so living with food allergies is living with fear.  Fear that what you're about to eat is going to make you sick, or worse. 

Most of the time we're in control and that helps, you never know if you're going to react, 5 years ago I didn't give what we ate a second thought in relation to allergic reactions, now we have separate cupboards and I check everything.  If I know we're going to go out for a meal, I'll ring ahead and check there's food I can eat, (most places do peanut and wheat free meals) and pre-warn the chef.  However if it's been spur of the moment it is more worrying.

Tomorrow I will write about what anaphylaxis is, how and when to use an epipen as Allergy UK have said that 66% of people don't know how to use an adrenaline pen. 


  1. This is such a thought provoking and informative post. So far we have only had one food reaction from Zach. He was a baby, just weaning and I gave him a rusk. A little while later he slowly started getting a rash. I wasn’t sure to be honest, whether it was the rusk or a viral cold but I always blame the rusk. He isn’t allergic to them but it was the first time he’d had one. It was scary though and so I can’t imagine how scary it must be in real like for you. Like you say, there is only so much control you have as she gets older and you have to hope that you have drilled it into her that she just has to be sensible. I know though, that you will be sat waiting for her whenever she is out with friends. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. +Mummascribbles Thank you for commenting, that sounds like a contact reaction, glad it cleared up. It is quite scary knowing she is out of your control, but on the other hand I want her to get on with things and enjoy life, I don't want the allergy to control her, yes I will still sit and worry though, as she goes out and about :)

  3. That is pretty scary. I have a nephew who is allergic to shrimp and there was a time when we were eating out and didn't realize that there was shrimp in one of the food we ordered and his eyes just started to swell. But now, he is very careful already about what he eats. He always asks first if there's shrimp in the food before eating it. #mummymonday

  4. +K'sMum thank you for taking the time out to comment, I am so glad your nephew was ok!
    Lupin Girl x

  5. Such a well written, thought challenging post. I, luckily, don't have much experience of this as my little bubba is only 7 months and so far we have been quite lucky in that Bubba so far hasn't had any problems, but that could all change. I really feel for your daughter and hope that as she grows she surrounds herself with understand friends who can help her if anything should ever happen.
    Best of luck for the future

  6. +AmiRoberts Thank you for stopping by, I truly hope your little ones adventures in weaning continue without any problems, and thank you for your kind words for L
    Lupin Girl x

  7. Gosh our post has made me realise how scary having a child with food allergies must be! I am lucky that neither of my girls have food allergies (that we know off anyway) but I have a very very small idea of the worry as when my children were babies, there was a possibility they would have but allergies. I'm glad to say they don't so far.
    Sounds like you handle things well, and hopefully this will rub of onto your children as they grow.

    1. +muesliandwafer thank you for commenting, it can indeed at times be scary, I think it will be more so I think as she gets older and starts going out on her own. I hope your little ones continue to live an allergy free life
      Lupin Girl x

  8. Both of my kids have quite a few allergies and they go to daycare. The food is specially made for them, but toddlers snag things off of friends' plates sometimes. When they are sick I have to figure out - are they sick or is it a reaction? I hate it so much.

    1. +Stacey it must be a minefield at that age! I do think I was fortunate that L and R were older when their allergies and intolerances surfaced, but it's never easy at any age (I was 35 when I had my first food reaction) I think it's brilliant that the daycare make the food specially for your children though, mine are in primary school over here, nuts are avoided although not 100% guaranteed to be free due to cross contamination, but wheat and gluten are not and so there are only limited meals that R can eat, with most pudding options limited to fruit or yoghurt.
      Lupin Girl x

  9. It's so scary isn't it? One of my twins is allergic to eggs. He had a reaction on the second time he ate them and had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance. Thankfully, he can eat baked egg (cakes, pasta etc) but can't eat cooked or raw egg — so that's omelettes and meringues out!! I'm keeping everything crossed that he'll grow out of it, as he gets older. Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    Caro |

    1. +CaroDavies It is scary, yes. I will keep everything crossed for you that your little one out-grows his egg allergy and that he has no more reactions
      Lupin Girl x