As you may or may not know this week 24th – 30th April is Allergy Awareness Week. About 8 years ago I didn’t really know much about any allergies; except Asthma and Eczema which I have experienced but I didn’t realise that asthma is closely linked to allergies.
I had a naïve uneducated view that if someone came into contact with something they had a mild allergic to it gave them a rash or an upset stomach, a bit like a stomach bug which most will get from time to time. Obviously I knew that there were severe allergies which the individual needed to carry an epi-pen to prevent anaphylactic shock – like my step-sisters son does for a peanut allergy. I didn’t realise how life changing any type of allergy is and I don’t think you do until you have one yourself or someone close to you does and I’m going to share some of my experiences.
My eldest son, Tristan has had problems with diarrhoea and stomach pains for most of his life. We had been fobbed off by doctors being told it was toddler’s diarrhoea. Over Christmas 2015 we visited family and Tristan played Pie Face with his cousins (for those of you that don’t know the game it’s basically getting squirty cream splattered in your face). Tristan’s face came up in a massive rash which took 24 hours before it began to go down despite being washed and various creams to try and get rid of it.
He’s now been dairy-free for approximately 9 months since the beginning of the summer holidays last year. We felt it would be easier to monitor what he was eating and help him get used to the change in diet without looking at his friends eating the things he loves but now can’t have. In the past 9 months Tristan’s symptoms have improved drastically previously his bowel movements were 90% loose and now it’s completely changed and is about 90% solid.
From my perspective cutting out the dairy from Tristan’s diet has been relatively easy. We have to check the ingredients on everything he has. Most of the everyday dairy products have been swapped to soya or coconut based products which are ALOT more expensive! I have found the dairy-free options don’t cater very well for children in the way of cereal bars and bags of biscuits. Luckily I’ve found Tristan is happy with other healthier snacks like raisins and fruit winder type things. I was quite impressed with the seasonal items available over Christmas and Easter from the free from section in the supermarkets.
When I asked Tristan how he’s finding being dairy free and he said ‘it’s ok, but I get a little bit sad because I’m not allowed dairy and I can’t have things like Yorkshire puddings and they were one of my favourites.’ He’s doing so well with it, a lot better than I expected. If someone offers him something to eat he will always ask if it has dairy in and say no thank you if it has. It’s been suggested by the paediatrician that we start to re-introduce a small amount of dairy under a dietician and see how we get on. I’m interested in seeing how we get on as Tristan’s mistakenly had milk chocolate with no obvious reaction. On the other hand he’s dipped his finger in my tea and touched his face – I know the things kids do – and had a rash reaction.
One of the main things with a food allergy that people don’t think about I am cross contamination. Something as simple as making a ‘normal’ sandwich then making a dairy-free sandwich without washing the board causes a risk of cross contamination. Tristan has a habit of sucking his fingers – a bit like some children suck their thumbs – this could cause cross contamination and is more than likely the reason he still has that 10% loose bowel movement. Hopefully he’ll grow out of it one day which is a possibility. One of Tristan’s cousins had a dairy allergy and grew out of it, unfortunately it’s resurfaced now she’s hit puberty. Fingers crossed they both grow out of it. You can find more information about food allergies at Allergy UK.
My youngest Lewis has suffered with eczema for most of his life. When he was younger he suffered with it severely on his face. We tried lots of different creams and steroids which sometimes helped temporarily. The best thing that helped him and got rid of it on his face was going on holiday abroad. Doctors were adamant that the sun and sea salt would not affect it. However 2 weeks abroad and Lewis’s eczema went from severe to virtually none existent.
For the past 2 years we have found as the winter draws in the eczema appears. Although it’s now his wrists, his elbows and back of his knees where he suffers now. Keeping the area’s moisturised several times a day with different creams does help. Lewis itches his wrists mainly at night and is in a vicious cycle. To prevent this we smother his wrists in Double-base cream and wrap bandages around his wrists. Generally this works quite well for us at the moment, making it more manageable. You can find more information about eczema at Eczema.org
Asthma is a long term condition which could basically be explained as sensitive airways. An asthma attack can be triggered by a variety of things such as dust, pets and pollen. I’m including this in this post as asthma is very closely linked to allergies. I’m very familiar with asthma as most of my family have it. Asthmatic’s need to take a preventer inhaler regularly with the aim of keeping the asthma under control. Asthmatics also carry a reliever to use in the event of an attack. You can findmore information at Asthma UK.
I had never heard of Coeliac Disease until a met my mother in law who has it. Coeliac Disease is a autoimmune disease. It causes an allergic reaction to gluten products including wheat, barley and rye which are in most everyday foods. If someone with Coeliac Disease has gluten they experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, bloating, tiredness, wind and constipation. You can find out more here at Coeliac UK.
A couple of years ago my sister in law broke out in a horrible rash on her face, neck and chest. After a series of tests she was told it’s an allergy to a specific type of tree pollen. Unfortunately this type of tree was a common tree which was located close to her house. She tried a variety of creams both steroid and moisturising and eventually found Aveeno cream soothe it.
My sister-in-law has since moved house and has found that her allergy has gone. She is able to cope with small amounts of this tree pollen. She has said the excessive use of steroid creams has left her skin aged more than it should be. Her daughter has recently broke out in the same rash and currently waiting to find out which tree pollen is causing it.
Unfortunately I have been unable to find a source of further information. I have found that this allergy is closely linked to hay fever, however the symptoms of hay fever do not include this rash. If you have any concerns or similar symptoms please raise it with your GP.
A peanut allergy is the one allergy that I’d heard of having life threatening consequences. If someone with a peanut allergy comes into contact with them they go into anaphylactic shock. They have to carry an epi-pen to relieve this. I’m not close to my step sister however I know that her son has this allergy. I didn’t realise how different this type of allergy was from other allergies. Last year we received a letter asking parents not to allow their children to eat peanuts before school and not to bring in anything with nuts as another child had a severe allergy. I don’t personally have much more information on peanut allergies but you can find out about peanut allergies here.