Following on with the Food Allergy blog series, Carly from @ CarlyJStevens talks us through her experiences with allergies through her daughter Daisy.
In the UK, an estimated 2 million people are living with a diagnosed food allergy, and 600,000 (1 in 100) with coeliac disease.*
This is huge and so it’s no surprise that so many of us either have a food allergy or know someone that does.
“Our allergy journey began when my little girl Daisy was tiny, about 2 months old, when she had what the doctor diagnosed as eczema, but we later discovered was in fact an allergy rash from the dairy she was consuming via my breastmilk. Her whole body was covered in a horrid red rash that never eased and she scratched until she bled – it was heart-breaking to witness. On numerous occasions I battled with the doctors because I suspected it was more than eczema, but I didn’t get anywhere and was simply sent off with steroid creams. It wasn’t until we gave her a bottle of formula at six months old that we got our diagnosis. After a few mouthfuls of the formula she promptly threw it all up and came out in hives all over her body. We rushed her to the doctors and although the hives had calmed down, they said that her reaction was symptomatic of a cow’s milk allergy and they would refer us to hospital.
It took a paediatrician seconds to look at her rash and link it to the cow’s milk she was consuming via me – I was so relieved that I had been right all along but devastated I had been causing her this much discomfort with my breastmilk. Within a matter of weeks on Neocate, a dairy-free prescribed formula, the rash had completely disappeared and she was a different baby.
Adapting to allergy life
In the beginning, dairy free life wasn’t easy. It felt like everything had cow’s milk in it and if it was advertised as dairy-free it was usually substituted with soya which we were told to stay away from until she was over a year old. I spent hours in the supermarket reading labels on food and would often cook Daisy food from scratch to save finding something that would be suitable when we were out. I would also always leave the house armed with snacks she could eat as it was so hard to find food she could have when we were out and about. (For some simple dairy free meal ideas, check out a Simple Dairy free meal idea for little ones here.)
Eating out with an allergy
Unfortunately, restaurants weren’t very accommodating of her allergy either. She would have very few dishes to choose from and I would often be made to feel neurotic and felt that very few people took her allergy seriously – most would refer to it as an intolerance which we know is a different thing entirely. However, since the introduction of Natasha’s law (a law that requires food businesses label their food clearly and correctly) and with veganism gaining huge popularity, restaurants and food businesses are far more aware of allergy and dietary requirements today. Eating out with Daisy now is a far more enjoyable experience.
My worries being an allergy mum
My biggest worry with Daisy unable to digest cow’s milk was always that she would be lacking in calcium and that would lead to teeth or bone problems. However, the Nutritionist reassured me that through fortified coconut milk, soya yoghurts (when she was old enough to have soya) and other foods she would get more than enough and that I would have nothing to worry about. (You can check that you or your little ones are getting enough calcium here – How to get calcium in to your diet when living dairy free.) As she has got older I’ve felt more confident of her awareness too when I’m not around.
My advice to other parents
My advice to anyone with a child with an allergy is not to be afraid to speak up. Whether it’s with the doctors, naysayers or in a restaurant, don’t be worried about making a fuss or questioning if something has the allergen you’re avoiding in it. I used to feel like a burden and a bore constantly checking food labels or questioning restaurant staff, but I’d rather feel like that than watch my daughter suffer. I have also sadly experienced many negative comments from people who don’t understand allergies and think it’s merely an intolerance, but my daughter’s well-being is my priority, so I’ve learnt to have thicker skin as the years have gone on. Living with an allergy has certainly had its ups and downs but it’s a way of life for us now and I’m proud of how well Daisy has coped with it. There’s every chance it will soon be a thing of the past for us all when she grows out of it altogether. ”
When a child has an allergy it can be really daunting especially when you are a first time parent and have no prior experience to draw on. My three sons all had Cows Milk Protein Allergies (CMPA) however when my first was born, it took 6 months for our diagnosis making the first 6 months of his life so traumatic.
What should you do if you suspect your child has a Cows Milk Protein Allergy?
If you suspect your child has a CMPA, it’s important to seek the advice of a professional. Raise your concerns with your doctor or your childs allocated Healthcare visitor.
In the mean time, keep a food diary and record any flares that occur. This can help identify any patterns and possible trigger foods/drinks. Head over and read ‘Does my baby have a CMPA? (Cows Milk Protein Allergy)
A huge thank you to Carly for sharing her daughter Daisys allergy journey.
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