Thursday, 9 November 2017

10 Reasons Allergy Parents Make Great Friends

We may not be able to casually saunter in to whichever café you like, or accept a party invite without a good few questions. But we make up for it in other ways...

1. We always carry extra snacks.
The need to carry safe alternatives to placate a child who's desperate to have what his friends are having means we'll usually have a decent bag of tricks at the ready wherever we go.

2. We bake. Oh, do we bake. We've had to learn to make our own, because we can't always rely on shop bought or other people's kitchens being allergen-free. Bon appetit!

3. We'll probably invite your kid over for dinner, and probably won't expect a return invitation...

4. But if you do invite us, we are likely to supply some of the goods...

5. Or, if you've managed to cater for the allergy completely, we'll be over the moon.

6. We're always prepared for an emergency. If your kid has a hidden allergy to wasp stings or suffers an insect bite, we'll be ready with an EpiPen (two, actually) and antihistamines.

7. Empathy. Our kids are used to dealing with adversity and being 'different', so they're likely to be understanding of other people's differences, too.

8. We love that you understand us. When we find a friend who gets it and supports us and our child, we hold onto them.

9. We are champion risk assessors. Your kid is in safe hands. I can spot a peanut brittle across a busy funfair, after all.

10. When food is handed out at parties, you'll probably get our share of the cake, and the party bag treats. Nom nom.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Notting Hill Carnival, with the children?

My husband's heritage is half-Caribbean, and he's attended Notting Hill Carnival for years, playing in the procession for several years before he met me. We've visited Carnival almost every year since we met, and so it seemed only right we take our children along, even though they are only little. I consider it part of their culture.

Despite Notting Hill Carnival's reputation (as far as some are concerned), the Sunday is actually the children's day, when you'll find lots of children in the procession, as well as spectating. It's mud-mas day, so expect to get at least splashed with a mix (often spa clays) resembling actual mud, if you get right near the procession itself, or know someone who's in one of the mud bands.

Find a quieter area to hang out and watch the Carnival go by, with a little space to dance in the pavement. Ladbroke Grove is the busiest, with more people per square metre than you've ever seen in your life. Avoid it if you're with children!



Carrying a baby or toddler in a baby carrier or wrap is the easiest option, as they can have a sleep as well as being held safe. Our 2 year old will be carried this way this year, despite weighing about 13kg. The 4 year old will be on daddy's shoulders! If you've ever been near the Carnival, you'll know a pushchair isn't an option.

Our eldest is allergic to nuts, peanuts, anything that 'may contain' or is cross-contaminated, plus beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils - some of which are staples of Caribbean food. So we don't feed him at Carnival. Instead, we take a packed lunch or duck into a Sainsbury's Metro well outside of the Carnival area (shops will be low stock or limited range) and grab him a safe sandwich and snacks to take with us. His two EpiPens are always carried with us, so that's nothing new for Carnival.

The little ones' ears are sensitive, so each has a pair of headphones to muffle the Carnival beats which are very loud up-close!



We go to Carnival for a few hours, then head elsewhere for dinner - due to the allergies, we seek a safe chain, which are easy to find across London. It's also nice to leave Carnival before everyone else tries to do so on public transport!

Apart from this, dance. Relax. Enjoy the celebration of unity, which is more important in today's world than ever before. Think of those Grenfell sufferers and survivors so near the Carnival site (some are wearing green in their honour this weekend). Watch the Carnival smiles and the confidence of the procession and party goers, and forget whether or not your bum looks big in that, because that too is something to embrace in the Carnival spirit.

Because for all the same reasons I'm scared to go and take my children, I'm determined to.




Monday, 17 July 2017

Bad Press

If you were trying to break into an industry, or raise your profile, what tactic would you employ? Perhaps you'd do something amazing, unusual or bizarre, to how you were different and special. Unfortunately, some people don't quite have that talent and therefore they troll and seek attention by upsetting the likes of us on social media. It's getting a bit predictable.

I'm not naming names, because I don't want to give them the bad publicity they're so clearly after, but some quarter-celebrities, or 'journalists' you've never heard of, will be posting some useless, poorly-written, badly-justified text right now, probably targeting a vulnerable community of people who will bite back (the allergy community being one of these, and of course, not protected by anti-discrimination laws like some other groups are).

Let's not respond by spraying their social media pages with facts. Clearly, we're more clued up than they are. We only make ourselves more of a target. Forget the nobody's name, remember they are desperate for attention (so don't give it) and work on what's important - sharing useful, correct, factual information; rallying together; spreading the facts like beautiful, intelligent confetti to fill our friends' feeds, instead of hateful, worthless ammunition that's placed there for media attention.

Over and out.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

#ALWAYSCARRYTWO

I'm getting annoyed. Cue Hulk: "You won't like me when I'm mad...". We need two Epipens (I'd ideally like approximately forty-five, to be honest). But we #alwayscarrytwo and here's why...


You see, I know what the stereotypical allergy parent is. Of course, we're all neurotic and obsessed with our kid getting a bit of an upset tummy from a tiny bit of this or that. We've probably made the whole allergy thing up, you know, for fun.

Except, we have not.

We don't consider it 'fun' that we have to pester others about not feeding them 'this or that', or anything that 'may contain', and to carry the Epipens at all times, "even if it's just to the park and they're not eating anything". It's not fun having to tell a toddler that the rest of the party can eat that cake, all except them. Planning any day out or holiday or even school or nursery is a military operation.

Not because they might get a poorly tummy, but because they could die if they ate that food.

I hate even writing that sentence because it sounds morbid and a bit sorry-for-ourselves, but the fact is, I had to accept the potential danger to my child's mortality when he was seven months old. I take every precaution possible, and I want to yawn when I hear myself talking about the allergies again, and still, there's a risk.

Carrying two Epipens does not take away the anxiety of daring to step away from your child and leave them in someone else's care, but it does mean you have a second chance if someone gets that first attempt wrong, which is easily done, or if the pen fails. I've never administered it myself, so my knowledge is only theoretical, let alone the person who might be with him if he ingested something; I'd like us all to have more than one shot (pun intended).

If we only had one pen, I'm pretty sure I couldn't set foot on a plane, or let's face it, anywhere not within very easy reach of a hospital or ambulance. I'm not certain I could send my child to nursery or school. However much you ingrain the importance of safe eating in your child,
there's the risk of cross-contamination - an unknowing adult slicing something with an allergen-infested knife, or a child having eaten the allergen and spreading it with typically sticky-toddler hands.

Nobody is asking anyone to feel sorry for us, because our children are lovely, bright, marvellous, enviable, empathetic little beings, and we protect them like superheroes.

But don't let prescriptions be reduced to one pen only when we desperately need two in order to lead a normal(ish) life with our families.

If you care, there's a petition here: https://www.change.org/p/this-petition-supports-the-carrytwo-campaign-we-ask-the-bsaci-to-reverse-its-recommendation-of-one-auto-injector-pen-back-to-two and a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/CarryTwoPens/ (thank you).

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Legume allergies: avoiding some or all?

When my son had his last allergy blood tests (December 2014), the results showed him to be allergic to peanuts, almonds, lentils and green pea.

He has also reacted to baked beans and to locust bean gum, a thickener found commonly in ice creams and lollies, Philadelphia cheese (not supermarket own brands) and some yoghurts.

It's not clear from the results whether they actually tested for beans and other legumes, or other nuts - whether they've just listed the positive results and actually tested for other things which came up negative. I need to call them and ask if that's on record.

Anyway, it made sense at the time to avoid things like kidney beans, runner beans, chickpeas and mange tout, although since joining and participating in forums I'm becoming more clued up on this allergy lark and wondering if we should try and give him some of those things. I don't avoid soya, which is also a legume.

Has anyone else with legume allergies got any useful advice? Are you allergic to some or all legumes? Or any recommendations for new veg to try, as we get stuck in a bit if a broccoli, carrot and sweetcorn rut here!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dear Favourite Cafe

I visited your café today with my two young children, as I have done many times before as it is a favourite of ours. My three-year-old suffers from a peanut allergy, the potential effects of which are unpredictable, so I was disappointed to see your new menu and note that peanut butter sandwiches are now an option on the children’s section.

Whilst I understand that other people in the world do love a peanut butter sandwich (as I once did myself!), I do feel I should explain my concerns to you, although I am sure you have carried out your own risk assessment.

Allergies in general  are on the increase, and 8-10% of children in the UK now have a proven allergy (very different to an intolerance). The UK is one of the top three countries in the world for incidence of allergies in children.  Peanut is a particularly worrying allergen because it is the food that most commonly causes the most serious type of allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.

For people with this type of allergy, there are obviously concerns with eating out, but we carry out our own risk assessment to consider the risk of cross-contamination. With peanut butter in a café with a children’s playhouse, for me, this risk would be too high due to the risk of toddlers’ sticky peanut-butter fingers all over the toys and surfaces. This is irrespective of your hygiene procedures and ways in which you mitigate the risk in your kitchen.  A parent’s quick wipe of a hand with a napkin or baby wipe is unlikely to remove residue.

I know that you cannot reconsider your entire menu based on one child, and I would not expect this. However, I would urge you to reconsider the risk, factoring in advice from Allergy UK and The Anaphylaxis Campaign, as I consider this item on the menu to be high risk.

I hope this will give you some food for thought (no pun intended!). I am just one person, but I cannot risk bringing my child to the café again considering the potential risk of other children covered in a substance that could cause him serious harm and even stop him breathing.  A child who carries epipens is just one example; many children may not yet be known to suffer from this allergy and I  do not need to tell you what happens if someone suffers anaphylaxis without an epi pen available.

Yours faithfully,

Nut Allergy Mum

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cake!

A few years ago, I'd never have imagined I could make a birthday cake myself (or bother, when you could easily buy one). But of course, sourcing a nut-free cake isn't simple, so my husband and I set about a joint effort to make one ourselves for Tot's third birthday party.

I made the red velvet cake and buttercream, and he did the icing and decorations, because he's Mr Precise!

I was very pleased with the results, and so was Tot!