This week is the start of ‘Allergy Awareness Week’, an important time in the calendar for all businesses and charities focused around allergies, but especially important for allergy sufferers for people such as Callum.
It’s a time when crucial information on how to live with allergies, and what to do if an allergic reaction occurs, is brought to the fore, and people are reminded of the very real difficulties faced by sufferers.
Most importantly, it can teach many people how to save a life!
Sounds dramatic maybe, but would you know how to detect a severe reaction, and most importantly would you know what to do to help the person reacting?
Click here for signs and symptoms to look out for!
An article released today by Allergy UK, provides the hard hitting facts and realities of allergies at present, and the ‘hidden’ epidemic that is being realised.
Data collated by Allergy UK suggests that:
‘44% (almost half) of allergy sufferers live in daily fear of a reaction’
As an allergy mum, I can totally relate to this. Whenever Callum isn’t in my care, I have to push down the constant fear and unease that I feel on a daily basis, even if he is in the care of his wonderful and perfectly capable child minder. A reaction whether mild, or severe, can occur at literally any time, so I guess you could say it is the fear of the unknown!
Allergy UK have also found that:
‘66% of UK adults admit they don’t know how to administer an adrenaline auto-injector pen’
That’s more than half of the adult population, unsure of how to deal with a severe reaction! Quite a worrying prospect for someone with an allergy, and hoping that if the worst were to happen, somebody near to them would be able to assist during their time of need, or rather crisis.
Doesn’t instil much confidence does it!
On top of this, latest statistics from NHS England suggest:
‘hospital admissions in England for allergic reactions are soaring to more than 20,000 each year, with over 60% (12,560) of these being emergencies’
This is a very worrying statistic. Year on year, the prevalence of allergies is increasing at a very fast rate, and yet awareness of allergies, and diagnosis remain dire. Our own personal experience with Callum has shown us this. It took 16 months, and multiple hospital admissions, including 3 emergency situations before we were finally listened to, and the medical profession began to address his allergy issues.
This is what spurred the birth of Intolerant Gourmand, and the determination to change the allergy world so that others don’t suffer the same way Callum did.
Let me put all of this into context!
What would happen if Callum had a severe allergic reaction? It makes my blood run cold just typing that sentence, particularly as we have sadly experienced this a number of times! Each of them being a truly frightening experience.
What if that severe allergic reaction resulted in anaphylaxis? And I, Jon, or his childminder were not immediately available?
In all seriousness, I wouldn’t allow this sort of situation to ever happen, but it makes you think twice about the realities faced with severe allergies.
A severe allergic response resulting in anaphylaxis is a very real possibility with Callum, it’s happened before.
His serious food triggers, the ones he was prescribed his adrenaline autoinjector pen for, are dairy, nut, tomato and strawberry. He also has other severe food and environmental allergies, but they are not classified as quite so serious.
These are all simple, every day ingredients that he can easily be exposed to at all times.
How about this example from last summer:
Just one lick of an ice cream, containing just 20% strawberry, 10 seconds of time, resulted in a reaction so severe his face swelled, his eyes became slits, his throat started to close, and his breathing became wheezy and laboured.
Callum has a confirmed asthma diagnosis, which made the situation even more frightening.
Less than 10 seconds.
The time it takes to blink twice.
Would you know what to do?
Would you know how to administer an epi pen that would quite literally save his life, or at least give him a fighting chance?
Sobering isn’t it!
That is life for us!
Every single day, not knowing when the next reaction will be!
And if it happens, if he will survive it!
Or whether people will know what to do if the worst happens!
Callum’s childminder has just completed a First Aid Training course, and I was very pleasantly surprised to hear that as part of the course, they now include adrenaline autoinjector pen training. It gives me a lot of reassurance that not only Callum, but other children will be safer because of this, and the knowledge that is being taught.
This is why ‘Allergy Awareness Week’ and the work of Allergy UK, and all the other allergy charities and businesses like us is so very important. Not only does it educate and provide much needed information, it provides hope to the 1000’s of allergy sufferers out there, like Callum, who hope and pray for a cure, or at the very least are surrounded by people who know how to respond to a severe reaction!
The more education, the safer the allergy world will be!
How will you help to save an allergy sufferers life?
Do allergies define you? Are you #livinginfear of when a reaction might happen? Do you have a good support group around you, helping, guiding, and keeping you smiling?
Callum wants you to know he feels safe because of what we do, helping educate those around him, supporting those who need it most!
Allergy Awareness Week is running all this week, look out for important information that may just help you or someone you know!
So, we've reached the other side of the Easter Holidays, or at least we have in our neck of the woods!
How did it go for you?
We had high expectations for a fun filled couple of weeks, with family day trips here and there, arts and crafts, visiting friends and family, and more!
Sounds lovely, right?
Yep, so the law of sod reared its ugly head, and decided to shake things up a bit…. Well quite a lot actually!!
The day after school broke up, Chloe started to complain about a sore throat. Within 48hrs she was croupy and feeling utterly lousy. So the first 3 days of the holiday were a write off as she pretty much slept the whole time on the sofa, or moped about the house feeling understandably sorry for herself.
Once she started to feel a bit more human, we took a trip to Hastings for the day to see Gram, and visited the Blue Reef Aquarium which was a BIG hit! I thoroughly recommend it for young children. There’s a lot of different varieties of fish to see, with interactive talks on specific fish as well. Chloe and Callum had a great time!
The next day, we ventured out again, this time to Warwick Castle. You can’t beat fresh air to help make you feel better, along with lots of walking, and history!
I can’t recommend Warwick Castle enough! It’s a fantastic day out, with so much to see and do, we could easily have come back for a second day and would have had just as much fun! After a bit of reassurance for Chloe, we did the tour of the dungeons, which were fab. Jon even had his head ‘chopped off’ at one point, which Chloe and Callum weren’t too sure of! There were princess tales in one of the towers, walks to the top of other towers, the trebuchet, jousting, horrible histories, the time tower, and more!
There was only one thing I could find fault with…… the food! We struggled to find ‘safe’ food for Callum. The venue as a whole clearly understand the 14 allergens and labelling situation, and have very clear posters detailing the ingredients for each food offered.
But, there were no ‘alternative’ foods available, anywhere! Eventually, we found the pub on site, at the front entrance, who were fantastic. The head chef came out to talk to me so I could explain the situation. Having realised that there was not a single food option that was safe, he put forward the suggestion of creating a bowl of chips from scratch, freshly peeled, chopped and fried in a frying pan (as the fryers couldn’t be used due to a very high risk of cross contamination). He also created a simple salad of cucumber and carrot for little dude. To say I was grateful is an understatement! And Callum was very happy with his ‘special’ lunch, which the chef personally came and delivered to him to ensure it remained totally safe at all times until it reached us.
So after a lovely couple of days, we thought we’d have a day at home catching up on house stuff, and letting Chloe and Callum recharge their batteries.
Good thing really, as then Jon came down with the cold that Chloe had…. Yup man flu struck! Which resulted in us cancelling plans for the first weekend as he was feeling pretty rubbish!
At first it seemed like it would be similar to Chloe and Jon, a high temperature, croupy style cough, and a nasty headache.
Unfortunately, poor little dude doesn’t do things the easy way, as regular readers will know.
A few days into this cold, Callum had angry looking eczema patches appearing all over his body, with some turning weepy, particularly around his nose.
I had a client meeting at the end of last week, 5 days into Callum’s cold, which meant I was away for half a day. When I got home, Callum clearly wasn’t himself, his nose looked all bruised, as well as his cheek, and there were new spots appearing that looked infected.
Having gone through something similar before, and knowing the signs, I wasn’t happy to leave Callum like this over the weekend and not have it checked. Managing to get a last minute appointment on Friday afternoon, his GP confirmed my suspicions…. The poor dude had staph, again!
His nose was covered on the outside, the inside, and his cheek was now also affected! No wonder he had been in so much discomfort! Imagine, the whole of the inside of your nose covered in weeping, bloody scabs, and itchy to boot. It's like a form of mental torture!
A strong dose of antibiotics were prescribed for 5 days, which we are now half way through, and thankfully it appears as if they are slowly helping, although I suspect a second dose will be required to fully kick this to the kerb!
Having an allergic child, with severe eczema is most certainly not easy, and definitely keeps you on your toes!!
It’s a well known fact that most allergy parents tend to dread certain holidays. Christmas, and also, Easter, cause us all to be on even higher alert than normal due to the buying, selling and receiving of confectionary goods. With cows milk allergy, it poses a potentially difficult situation.
Not so long ago, it was impossible to find a safe alternative. Thanks to the wonderful companies such as No Muu, Moo Free, Choices, and Kinnerton, there are now viable options for anyone with a milk allergy (and more) to enjoy.
Now, it stands to reason that other companies are cottoning on to the fact that the allergy safe market is one to join. In fact, there has never been a better time to find safe products as companies realise there is a huge gap in the market and start to plug it.
I think it’s wonderful!
I really do!
The variety of choice is improving, and the quality of the products is constantly improving too.
The most important bit for me though, the world is waking up to the reality of allergies, understanding there is a serious need for safe products, and delivering them to us the consumer.
If you are going to launch a product into the allergy world, you really need to do your homework! Don’t underestimate quite how much a safe product is wanted, and realise that if a new, potentially safe products arrives on the market, the allergy world will leap on it quicker than vultures to fresh meat.
A case in point…..
Hotel Chocolat recently launched their ‘Milk-free Milk Chocolate’ in the UK in time for Easter. The allergy world quite literally went bonkers for it.
A new product, from a highly reputable and upmarket chocolatier. It almost seemed too good to be true! A marketing coup for Hotel Chocolat, or was it?
Sadly, events have unfolded over the weekend, which has left Hotel Chocolat with egg on their face, and a large volume of very unhappy customers.
It all unfolded on Thursday evening, on social media, with the realisation dawning on a number of people that the ‘milk-free milk chocolate’ may not be as safe as initially believed. A lot of anger, understandably, has been vented over the fact that the products were found to be unsafe for milk allergy sufferers once the offices had closed for the bank holiday weekend, meaning little could be done until after the weekend. Too late for those using the products for Easter!
There have been stories pertaining to a child being hospitalised due to a severe reaction, but this is only alleged, and so far I have not seen any proof of this.
Hotel Chocolat have technically not done anything ‘wrong’, per say. The problem resolves around their labelling. There is a very strong insinuation that it should be ‘safe’ for allergy sufferers due to the language they use.
If they had mentioned ‘may contain milk due to manufacturing methods’ or even ‘not suitable for milk allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods’ then there wouldn’t be so much hoohah as people could make an informed decision as to whether the chocolate was safe or not.
I was sent a screen shot of one of the chocolate products in question, and I have to say, it does hint that it should be safe:
What do you think? Would you agree?
To give you an understanding of the seriousness of the situation, Callum has an immediate IgE mediated response to dairy. He will most likely have (and previously has had) an anaphylaxis response if he consumes any dairy. The product has been labelled in such a way, it appears to be safe for a milk allergy sufferer, when in actual fact it has a very high cross contamination risk. Even traces of milk can cause a severe reaction in Callum.
A complaint was made to Hotel Chocolat directly, which resulted in emails being sent out to all customers on their mailing list:
A commendable reaction, I’m sure you will all agree.
But what about the customers who haven’t signed up to their mailing list? Those that bought in shops? Those receiving the chocolate as gifts?
Social media showed its strength over the course of Thursday night, Good Friday, and Saturday in the run up to Easter Sunday. Much of the allergy world jumped in to request assistance from the FSA and also Allergy UK to ensure the information got to as many people as possible.
It achieved such a high audience, many people who might otherwise have missed out on the vital information were able to see it and make informed decisions.
Eventually, the products in question were actually recalled due to fears over safety, and refunds are now being offered. More details can be found in the link below.
I just hope that no-one suffered any adverse reactions if they have consumed the products in question, particularly innocent little ones just looking to enjoy some chocolate.
It’s a sad situation, but there are positives to come from this!
Personally, I hope that Hotel Chocolat don’t give up on their quest for joining the allergy world. They have a wonderful selection of delicious products, it would be great to see them be able to offer their high quality goods to the allergy world as well, as long as they are labelled correctly and accurately!!
With Easter quite literally just around the corner, thoughts are turning to chocolate! Everywhere you look, shops are full to the brim of colourful, bright and yummy looking chocolate Easter eggs and sweets!
That’s fab if you can eat them, but what about if you suffer with allergies? Going shopping with the little dude in tow over the past few weeks has been heart-breaking. Every time he sees any Easter eggs, his first comment:
‘mine can’t eat them, make me sick!’
My poor boy!!
So, I have trawled the local supermarkets (Tesco & Sainsbury's) to see what, if any, allergy safe alternatives are on offer. I did the same last year, and was very disappointed as any that were made specifically for the allergy market were in a boring and non-descript box.
Not very appealing for a toddler!
This year, I have been pleasantly surprised, as there is quite a large selection available. And even some of the more mainstream chocolate suppliers have some suitable options!
Some of the allergy specific options are pricier than the mainstream ones, but actually, to have a safe, tasty and available alternative is good enough for me!
The chocolate options:
After Eight - although young children may not be so keen on the mint! Callum quite liked it though!
Lindt - quite a dark chocolate, but not too bitter
Divine chocolate - only the dark chocolate version is suitable!
Choices - one of Callum's all time favourites, he always asks for this if he sees it!
Sainsbury's free from - not bad, but you don't want to be reminded that it's a 'free from' egg! More cheerful packaging would be far better!
Kinnerton - another of Callum's favourites, and one that I use a lot in recipes as it is very stable! Callum is a big fan of the chocolate lollipops, I really recommend them, and he does too!
Moo Free - another firm favourite with Callum! Last year we found the honeycomb egg for him, and he thought it was fab! And the packaging is child friendly too, happy days!
The sweets options:
If you're really not sure about the chocolate, there are some lovely sweet options available! We use these to fill plastic colourful eggs to create our own 'safe' Easter egg hunt that everyone can enjoy!
We hope this post helps you a bit in your search for the perfect Easter treat! :)
The trouble is, when you need to be dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, it is really really hard to find bread that is tasty and that doesn’t cost the earth!!
The only one I have found so far is DS ciabatta rolls. Pretty much everything else has egg in it.
That is, until I found ‘Helen’s Brilliant Bread Mix’, which was on special offer when I went to do the weekly shop at the local supermarket. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try!
The method does call for the use of 1 egg, so I chose to use Orgran egg replacer in the hope it would work.
Callum wanted to be a part of the experiment, so we got to work following the instructions on the packet, beating the Orgran, adding the vegetable oil and milk, and then the bread mix, stirring until well combined. Then turning out into a prepared loaf tin, and then putting in the oven to bake.
It was really simple, and Callum had great fun!
35 minutes of baking later, and we had our bread.
It didn’t rise as much as I expected, but I’m guessing that had something to do with the fact that I couldn’t use actual egg. I will try it again with egg to see if it makes much difference, to cure my curiosity more than anything!
Callum wasn’t fussed, he was just really pleased to have actual ‘safe’ bread that tasted quite scrummy!
Overall I'm quite impressed! It really was a quick and simple process, and in under an hour you get bread that is edible and doesn't cost the earth! I just need to figure out how to make it rise more, to compensate for the lack of egg.
Red Nose Day 2015 is here, and I’m sure lots of you will be baking treats for your little ones to take to school for a cake stall at the end of the day! And, if you’re anything like me, as the theme is ‘funny faces’, I’ve also baked whilst trying to keep my ‘red nose’ on the whole way through. NOT easy!! But lots of fun! And it made Callum giggle, a LOT!
Chloe’s school is hosting a cake stall this afternoon, and I thought I would do 2 different recipes, both of which are allergy safe – which means the little dude doesn’t miss out!
I also bought the cupcake cases from Sainsbury’s as part of their Red Nose Day merchandise as a large portion of the money spent goes direct to Comic Relief!
Happy days all round!
The first is the classic crispie cakes, a firm favourite for all the family, but given an allergy safe twist. And the second is another classic, a simple sponge fairy cake, with a cherry ‘red nose’, again, totally allergy safe!
You will need:
Add the chocolate, spread and maple syrup to a large bowl, and melt in 30 second bursts in the microwave until fully melted, taking care not to overcook!
Add the rice crispies and stir until well combined.
Using 2 spoons, place in cupcake cases, pressing down gently so that it becomes compact and sticks together when setting.
Leave to set (if you can wait that long!)
Funky Fairy Cakes
You will need:
Preheat the oven to 180c/360f and prepare a cupcake tray with cases.
Add all the ingredients to a large bowl, and mix until well combined and you have a smooth batter. Don’t over mix or the cupcakes won’t rise very well!
Fill the cupcake cases to 2/3 and then place in the oven.
Cook for 12-16 minutes, until the cupcakes are a golden brown and springy to touch.
Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely before decorating.
We chose to decorate with glacé icing and a cherry for a ‘red nose’
It has been a very interesting week for the allergy world!
News broke on Monday morning of the LEAP study into peanut allergy, and the ground-breaking development that the risk of peanut allergy could be significantly reduced by changing current methodologies.
640 patients aged 4-11 months were involved in the study, and were chosen as they were considered at ‘high-risk’ of developing peanut allergy due to suffering with severe eczema and/or egg allergy.
Patients were split into 2 groups, half of which were asked to eat peanut protein contained in 3 or more meals, each week. Whole nuts were not used, due to the risk of choking in small children. The other half of the group were asked to avoid nuts until the age of 5. Questionnaires were completed by all families involved on a regular basis.
The results of the study suggest that peanuts introduced to the diet of ‘at-risk’ babies from 4 months onwards significantly reduced the chances of them developing a peanut allergy by the age of 5. When they say significant, it really is. It is believed to reduce the chance by as much as 80%!
Seeing as peanut allergy is one of the most prevalent of allergies, and the number of people, particularly children, becoming affected is increasing significantly year on year, it’s almost too good to be true.
The method used during the study is portrayed as quite radical, but is it?
If something is suddenly introduced to a diet, where previously it hadn’t existed, there is always going to be a chance that the body will have an adverse reaction to it due to it being ‘foreign’. The thought processes behind it are that introducing to the diet early on, will most likely ensure there is little or no reaction.
It makes sense!
I said as much to my father-in-law, who immediately responded with:
‘Well I didn’t come into contact with peanuts until I was at least 8 due to the rationing after the war, and I’ve not become allergic, nor had any reaction when I tried it, nor did my older brother, cousins, or any of my school friends!’
I guess he has a point. But then again, it’s just as possible that he isn’t a person likely to develop allergies, so was never going to have a reaction.
There are some people that will always be more predisposed to allergies, just like Callum. No-one truly knows the reasons why, and that’s why studies like this are crucial to help us understand allergies more, and learn how to control them better, or even better, to pre-empt like this study suggests.
As the parent of a child with a severe nut and peanut allergy, and owner of an allergy focused business, I have read the details with much interest, and am very keen to see how this progresses!
For me, it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but for now, I do remain slightly sceptical, particularly because many other factors need to be taken into consideration such as in terms of other allergies already discovered in patients, family history and so on. It will be interesting to see how the patients progress in the coming years, and whether any do go on to present with allergic responses later on. I will keep everything crossed that they remain allergen free!!
There is a flip side to this study though, as is sadly always the case. For many years, the advice given to parents has been:
As a result of the news breaking of this study, I have seen numerous posts, tweets, and articles focusing on the guilt that parents the world over are now feeling, as well as anger and frustration. They have diligently listened to advice given by GPs/ Consultants/ Health Visitors to keep their little ones safe and away from any potential danger to nut exposure/ ingestion, and now the advice could be about to change, advising people to do the exact opposite.
It’s conflicting for sure, and an alien concept to get your head around when you’ve become so used to doing the opposite it’s second nature!
The articles currently in circulation have been part of many people’s discussions, unsurprisingly, and they are bringing up a whole host of emotions for many!
Parents who have children suffering with allergies, particularly peanut mustn’t beat themselves up. It’s very new information, and there’s much more research to be done. They most certainly haven’t done anything ‘wrong’. Life with an allergic child is tough, bloody tough. Blaming yourself for not ‘protecting’ your little one following the information that is coming out with this study is not going to help anyone!
Importantly, parents mustn’t start changing the way they wean their children, particularly if they suffer with eczema and/ or egg allergy. They should seek medical advice before applying this sort of introduction to their little ones diet. The study was conducted in a safe and controlled way, with medical assistance available in case of reaction.
We as allergy parents battle the odds daily, and ultimately, as long as our children are safe, happy and not reacting, then surely we’re doing something right!
Articles covering details such as this study do tend to arm ill-equipped people with information. Unfortunately it does mean that some people then want to give you suggestions, when perhaps they have little or no experience on the subject, which can prove challenging!
I have, myself, been on the receiving end of unhelpful ‘advice’ from people who simply don’t get what it is like to have a child with severe allergies and the daily battle you face to keep them well. The advice is given with the best of intentions, for sure, but when you get told:
‘maybe Callum would be better if you’d given him a little bit of nut when you were weaning him, and not been so strict with his diet with the other stuff…’
Quite frankly, it takes all my will power not to hit them, and I am not a violent person by nature!
It was when we were in the midst of trying to figure out the allergies that were making Callum so very poorly, that we gave him a chocolate roulade at a year old, with sweetened chestnut purée in it (not knowing what we know now with regards to his allergies, and still very naïve) and he suffered an instant severe reaction. He now has an epi-pen as a result!
Callum looks much better today than he did before, because of being so strict and careful with his diet, and getting rid of the very things that were making him ill. So, people (not medically trained!) suggesting after months and months of elimination, trial, error, tears, frustration, despair and more, that giving him exactly what makes him so severely ill would have made him better, does take the biscuit somewhat!
That aside, the study does give hope to future generations, that maybe just maybe, the battle against peanut allergy could be about to improve. I for one think George du Toit and his colleagues have certainly set the benchmark for how allergies are managed in years to come and I’m excited to see what more will be found out in the future!
And who knows, perhaps other allergies may have ground-breaking developments like this too.
This allergy mum is definitely hoping so!!