Fight for your right to party!

SO, HERE we are surrounded by the debris of a summer get-together. But unlike the old days it’s not cig butts and wine bottles; this time I’m talking grapes, free from biscuits, and two empty pots of tea, because today we hosted the allergy parent support group for the very first time.

You only realise how keyed up you are about mass gatherings with a food allergic child when you are finally able to hold or go to one without any worries. No-one this afternoon was going to turn up with a peanut butter sandwich in a lunchbox – and I didn’t have to warn anyone of the dos and don’ts in advance. Continue reading “Fight for your right to party!”

A doctor calls…

Well, no, not him – but am v happy to reveal that Dr Tammy Rothenberg, a consultant paediatrician with a specialist interest in allergies will be the resident expert at the food allergy parent support group in Stoke Newington on Saturday 30 June. Dr R – formerly of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and now the Homerton, Hackney – will be there to to answer all your burning questions about childhood food allergy. Plus there will be some great allergy friendly recipes to take home, as well as a chance just to catch up and chat with parents in the same boat.

Please follow this link for details and info on how to come along… Would love to see as many food allergy parents from the area as we can squeeze in!

Ta-da! And the support group is…

On Saturday 30th June, 3-5pm, in Stoke Newington, N16…

Since Sidney was diagnosed with his silly string of food allergies a year ago, I seem to have a constant catalogue of questions that only parents in the same plight can answer.

Our doctor, as I’ve said before, is amazing, but there are some things he just can’t help with – recommending good allergy-friendly places to eat, top holiday spots for catering for a food allergic child, the best ‘free from’ foods to buy, recipes for the ideal eggless, wheatless, ‘add your own allergy’-less breads, cakes, etcetera.

Having a local support network of people in the same position means being able to swap notes on nurseries, schools, caffs, playgroups. What does a nursery need to prove before you feel comfortable sending your EpiPen toting tot there? How do you handle the issue of other kids eating potentially risky food in a public setting? Can we get the overpriced, overprimped recently revamped park cafe to offer something allergy friendly (OK, that’s just my own current gripe).

So when the paediatric allergy nurse at St Mary’s Hospital, where Sidney is seen, said they had secured funding to run a series of support groups and would I be interested in helping to host one I said ‘yes’ right away.

They’ve already run the inaugural event in Ealing, which I’m told proved a hit, and there’s a second in Barnes this month. But for north and east London parents I’m organising one in Stoke Newington, Hackney for June. So if your child has multiple food allergies and is under the care of an allergy doctor, do come along to share tips, info, recipes and gripes, find out which places are allergy-friendly, meet other parents navigating the same issues and ask an expert from St Mary’s paediatric allergy department your burning questions.

Food Allergy Parent Support Group, Saturday 30 June, 3-5pm, Stoke Newington, Hackney, N16; places are limited so for further info and to RSVP please email alexabaracaia@hotmail.com or see www.allergysupportgroup.org.uk

Bearing up

Fame at last! As you can see, Sidney is bearing up remarkably well despite his Food Allergy Ordeal.

Billboards and front pages of the Hackney Gazette, no less. I hasten to add, despite the headlines, he can eat birthday cake (albeit wheat free, egg free and nut free – see here for recipe) and he happens to like boiled courgette, but that aside it’s nice to have a bit of a plug for the upcoming parent support group. Date TBC as soon as poss – hopefully June. All food allergy parents who can get themselves to the Hackney area are very welcome. Details to follow…

Scrambled eggs on Mother’s Day

It was a perfectly innocuous Mother’s Day breakfast that booted us into a new way of life. And the morning had started so well: just a couple of night-time wake-ups and a respectable 7am start from our five month-old baby boy. Flowers (pink and yellow) delivered to the door. Cards. A cup of tea in bed. And scrambled eggs on toast.

Then, not long after, we noticed an odd rash developing on his little stick legs: white, bumpy, like nettle stings. Within minutes the lumps had spread to his throat and chin. My husband was quick to act: he carries an EpiPen for a ridiculous list of food intolerances that transform him into Elephant Man when combined with vigorous exercise. He recognised the hives straight away and, taking no chances, got on the phone to the out of hours doc.  They said: “Call an ambulance.”

So the rest of my first Mother’s Day was spent, memorably enough, languishing in a Hackney A&E. A syringe full of antihistamine saw off the lumps and bumps but we were baffled as to what had caused this reaction when he was still solely breastfed. Was it the flowers? Pollen in the early spring air? Something in his eczema creams? The paediatric team couldn’t say, really: just go straight back to the GP or A&E if it happens again.

Barely a month later it did, and this time the cause was blindingly obvious. I gave him his first taste of banana. Within minutes there were red splodges where the mash had touched his skin, and soon hives had spread across his face and neck. So, another dash to the doc for antihistamines and a request, now, for specialist referral.

We were due to go on holiday to Greece just a couple of weeks later and the wait to see an allergy specialist on the NHS would be at least three months, we were told. Panicked as to what might have caused it, and worried about whether the next reaction would be more serious, we booked to see an NHS consultant privately.

He asked us to run through exactly what had happened on the morning of the first reaction. We blathered on about pollen and flowers, skin creams, floor cleaners. He asked what we had eaten. Scrambled eggs, we said. ‘That’ll be it’, he said. He hadn’t even eaten any, we protested, stupidly.

But the results of a skin prick test confirmed it: our baby was quite definitely allergic to egg. Apparently even the tiniest trace on our hands, unwittingly transferred to his skin when we were applying his creams, would have been enough to trigger the hives.

Of course we weren’t surprised when banana threw up a positive (though who the hell had ever heard of banana allergy?). Possibly wheat and latex, too, though the results were borderline. And the trump card – peanuts. Crap.