Being an allergy mum is a whole new world. In fact, I’m not even sure that I knew being an ‘allergy mum’ was a thing before I became one which is kinda crazy considering allergies aren’t exactly new to our family – my mum discovered that my brother is allergic to almonds when he was around ten years old. When he was younger, my brother reacted with a rash which calmed down and then disappeared fully with some anti-histamines which wasn’t really ‘a big deal’; or so we thought. He was advised to avoid nuts and did so with no reactions.
However, at 30 years old my brother had a reaction which caused anaphylaxis, meaning that his airways started to close and he was in life threatening situation. He now carries an epipen with him ‘just in case’ he accidentally comes in to contact with nuts and has another life threatening allergic reaction.
When my son was born in 2013 he was poorly and I didn’t know why. All of his symptoms, such as colic, rash, back arching, reflux, sickness, diarrhea, blood in his stools, and refusing feeds, can be diagnosed as individual problems but when baby has all of these symptoms together it can point towards an allergy. Getting my son diagnosed was an extremely difficult and lengthy process; it was heartbreaking watching my baby suffer and not being able to do anything about it. I was desperate, and emotionally and physically exhausted but I didn’t give up! If there’s one thing I have learned about allergy mums, it’s that they’re fighters and will fight for their children to get them what they need and ensure they don’t miss out!
To cut a long story very short, in the early days when my son would scream in agony to the point where his head would turn purple and he’d be pouring with sweat (not to mention the blood all up his back), I did my own research and figured out that he has a cow’s milk protein allergy. I conducted more research and realised that he needed a hydrolyzed formula, I studied the different formulas suitable for a cow’s milk protein allergy and went to the children’s hospital armed with all of my information. I still had a huge fight on my hands though and my son was 9 weeks old by the time I got him the formula he desperately needed. However, after just 12 hours of being on that formula his symptoms stopped – the addage ‘mum knows best’ proved to be true on this occasion! Unfortunately my story of struggling to get a diagnosis isn’t rare and that’s one of the reasons I created my blog; I don’t want any allergy parents and allergy babies to suffer like we did so I put everything I know online to help others.
Today on The Olive Fox, I want to share my tips for new allergy mums:
* Keep a food/symptom diary – this will help pinpoint any trigger foods and will be useful to show medical professionals when they ask for more info.
* Take photos of any nappy reactions – okay, it’s not nice to look at but it may help in getting a diagnosis.
* Videos may also help the medical professionals, it’s heartbreaking to watch I know but if you’re struggling to get a diagnosis then having video footage of the back arching/refusing feeds etc may help.
* Do your own research and know your rights. When I first arrived at the Children’s hospital the assessment nurse said to me “we don’t even stock formula so I don’t know why you’ve come here” – I could have left at that point but I politely asked to see a doctor and a few hours later I left with a 400g tin of the formula they didn’t stock there !
* Don’t give up – your baby needs you and you’re the only voice they have.
* Mum knows best – no really you do! You are with your baby 24/7 so YOU know and if you think something isn’t right then don’t give up and keep pushing doctors.
* Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion – all GP’s can’t know everything so maybe yours doesn’t know about certain allergy symptoms and how to spot a suspected allergy.
* When weaning, only introduce one new food at a time and wait at least 3 days before introducing a new food. If baby then has an allergic reaction, this will make it easier to pin point the trigger food.
* Join an online support group – there are many online support groups now, mine is on Facebook ‘Allergy Support Group’ we currently have over 2,000 members all supporting each other on their allergy journeys.
* Learn how to cook ‘free from’. It may take a bit of practice with a few failed attempts but it can be done and you’ll surprise yourself at just how many dishes can be adapted to be made allergy friendly.
* Take your time going around the supermarket and don’t rush reading ingredient labels.
* Don’t assume that because a food item was once allergy safe that it still is, manufacturers can change the ingredients at any time so you need to check the ingredient labels every time you purchase.
* Get comfortable in being the awkward customer, if you’re anything like me you’ll hate making a fuss in restaurants but now you’ll have to so get confident in asking lots of questions and quizzing the chef about the food menu to find out what will be suitable. If in doubt – don’t eat there !
* Don’t let allergies hold you back! Your children will grow up and be able to advocate for themselves, they will fully understand their allergies and be confident in avoiding trigger foods.
* Accidents happen so don’t beat yourself up about it; we are human and we make mistakes. It’s just what we do afterwards so, if you do have a slip up, learn from it and carry on, don’t waste time mentally punishing yourself for it. Keeping a baby/toddler allergy free is no easy task so slip ups are likely.
* Constantly remind friends and family about your child’s allergies. I discovered that people, including total strangers, LOVE to feed kids. I don’t know why but they do! So you may need to constantly remind people and never turn your back until the child is older and understands not to accept food unless it’s been checked first.
* Discuss allergies with your child on a regular basis and remind them why they can’t eat certain foods. This chat should be a positive one, we don’t want our children to feel like they’re missing out. I talk about it with my son as just something we do but I never make it a big deal.
* Focus on what your child can have and do rather than what they can’t eat.
* Always try and use non-food rewards so, for example, if your child wins at sports day, instead of going out for food to celebrate, go to the cinema or swimming or something else rewarding that doesn’t revolve around food.
* Discuss how fun birthday parties are and talk about them spending time with their friends, playing games etc – don’t make it all about the food. Food shouldn’t be the focus of a birthday party.
* And finally – easier said than done (I know) – get your emotions in check. Children pick up on their parents’ energy and copy pretty much everything they do so, if you’re sad about their allergies, they’ll be sad about their allergies too. If you are cautious but don’t let it consume your life then your child will be cautious but not let it consume their whole life either.
I hope you have found my tips for new allergy mums helpful, if you’re in need of any allergy friendly recipes or shopping lists you can find them over on my blog, Living With CMPA.