READER REPORT:

When food can kill

MONIQUE HEAPS
Last updated 05:00 11/05/2015
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"Something as loving as a kiss can make my son react."

Does an allergy rule your life?

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Does an allergy rule your life?

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Eye roll. I get weird looks as I wipe down the table before we sit down or I wipe the toys before my son plays with them. Not because I'm scared of him getting germs, which is assumed when you reach for the wipes, but because what could be on this table or toy could make him really sick or be life-threatening.

When I look back through my son's Plunket book it becomes evident that right from the beginning he was showing signs of allergies.

I couldn't see this at the time though, I just thought he had eczema. I didn't really know too much about food allergies so it wasn't until he was about 4-6 months old that we started to see a big change with the introduction of solids.

The usual first foods such as apple and carrot were not only causing instant facial rashes and eczema flair ups (at times he was covered so badly that this little baby would scratch himself until he bled), but every night for months he would scream in pain for half an hour to an hour. Nothing could calm him. 'Colic' was the standard response.

When he was 9 months old he had his first radioallergosorbent test - this is a blood test which determines specific things that people react to. It took three adults to take those vials of blood and I was in tears, my baby was in tears.

My doctor phoned me late at night to tell me the results. He had never had egg, only exposure through my breastmilk. I was told to avoid it as he was highly allergic.

Over the next three months, through food diaries and my own gut instinct, I began to suspect egg, apple and carrot were not the only things causing the eczema and sleep issues.

We tried to introduce a bottle of formula but where that milk touched his beautiful skin an instant rash and hives appeared and he screamed.

We also had a couple of episodes where he was exposed to cheese, which resulted in power chucking all over me and all through his bed.

When he was 12 months old we visited our local allergy clinic. He had more tests, this time a skin prick test for eight different allergens.

As suspected we saw massive reactions to egg white and whole egg but also to milk (dairy) and peanut.

My gut was right. Trust your gut.

After that appointment we were given an action plan and advised to purchase an Epi-pen, which is an adrenaline auto injector which could save his life if he experiences anaphylaxis.

We also purchased a medic alert bracelet which does the talking for him if he can't. If we were in an accident and I couldn't tell medical staff of his allergies that bracelet could save his life; some medicines such as anaesthetics contain egg and injected into someone with allergies like his, could end badly.

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A year later we were back again for more tests, more skin prick tests, more blood tests, more tears.

We were then referred to a specialist paediatrician. This was good as we got the top answers and options on where to go next.

Looking at him now, you wouldn't know there's anything wrong. Due to the elimination of the allergens his skin is perfect and he sleeps without pain, although we still have many more tests and food challenges ahead of us.

All our baking and meals I either make free of egg, dairy, peanut, apple and carrot or I cook more than one meal every night. I stand in the supermarket and read labels. I pack a lunchbox for him to take everywhere - we don't have the luxury of being able to grab something while we are out, or go to a cafe and hope there will be something suitable on the menu for him. Even if we by chance find something, there is a risk of cross contamination.

What if that knife cutting his sandwich was just used to spread mayonnaise on another sandwich?

Something that should be fun, a party, he takes his own special box of food. Playgroups, music groups, all of these fun activities he takes his own food and not only that but I hover, I sit close by, I watch every move other people make around him. I watch them eating their egg sandwich and whether they touch anything after that he may touch.

This is where the wipes come out and I get the weird looks.

READ MORE:

There is nothing trendy about a food allergy 

Keeping son alive until he outgrows allergy 

Something as loving as a kiss can make my son react. How horrible and heart breaking it feels when you only want to show your affection and next minute this little man is covered in hives in every place your lips touched his skin because of something you ate earlier.

I worry. I worry about what will happen when he starts kindy or school. Will he be ok? Will people follow the action plan if something happens? Will I get a call to say my baby is in an ambulance being rushed to hospital?

I worry that I'm always talking about allergies and is my older child missing out because of this?

I worry if he doesn't outgrow these allergies the types of conversations I may need to have with my teenage son.

I am teaching my 2-year-old son to refuse food that people offer him, to ask Mummy first. To wash his hands (his sister too) before and after eating.

I am teaching him to tell people what makes him sick so that hopefully by the time he is kindergarten and school-ready he can take some care of himself to protect himself from harm because the reality is people don't understand food allergies. I am the first to admit I didn't until I was living with it everyday.

At his second birthday I made sure everything available for the children to eat was safe for him. As I held a platter of food in front of him he hesitated. He looked up at me with this look that made my heart melt. He was looking up at me to check what on this plate he could have.

People have the 'he'll be right' attitude. How do they know that when they don't understand his allergy at all? How would they feel if they were having a heart attack or choking and I said 'you'll be right'?

I didn't ask for my child to be the 1 in 10 to be affected by this but I do ask to consider what it's like to have a child with a food allergy. Be more aware when eating that egg sandwich or get a fresh knife.

By being allergy-aware you can help keep kids like my little boy safe and help one more allergy mum sleep a little easier at night.

Does an allergy affect your life? Hit the green button to tell us about it or email stuffnation@stuff.co.nz


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