Now we’re approaching winter, it’s come round to that time of year when mention of the flu jab returns. For at risk/ vulnerable people with conditions that predispose them to a higher chance of suffering badly if they caught flu, it’s a great opportunity to protect themselves.
It is offered to the over 65s, people with comorbidities, and front line NHS workers amongst others.
The idea behind the flu jab is to get enough people to take up the offer, so that not only people who need the protection have it, the people who can’t have it will be more protected during the flu season.
Callum has been offered the chance to have the nasal spray for the past 2 years. Unfortunately, as it is egg based it would cause him a reaction. The added problem Callum has, is that even a simple cold can cause major problems for him, so it simply isn’t worth putting him through so much pain and discomfort in the hope he will get some protection.
Jon and I are both offered the flu jab through our work, so to give Callum the best possible chance of being protected, we both get it.
Anything to help our brave boy!
Jon never really gets any reaction, a day of sniffles a few days after having the jab, and that’s it.
Me on the other hand….. a whole different kettle of fish!!
This is the 4th year running that I have had the flu jab, and whilst I’m assured by my work colleagues that there’s no active flu ingredient in the jab, it floors me every single blooming year!
Exactly a week to the day after having the jab, I get a sore throat, which progresses to a nasty cough, aching limbs, blocked nose, the shivers and so on. And after a week of this, I lose my voice and all the other symptoms still continue!
It’s almost like my body makes me go through a mild version of flu symptoms whilst trying to ‘accept’ the jab.
It does leave me feeling utterly lousy, and I’m currently on the 2nd week since having the jab, so this week has been somewhat of a struggle, I have to say!!
When I consider everything Callum goes through, what he puts up with, and the challenges he faces on a daily basis, I kind of have to man up and just deal with it.
Me having to deal with minor symptoms is far better than the other far more terrifying alternative of Callum actually catching flu. It would undoubtedly result in a hospital admission and leave him very very poorly.
And that, quite simply can’t happen!
If you have it offered to you, please do take up the chance of having the flu jab, you just never know who you might be helping!
It’s a well-known fact that children with allergies tend to be the victim of bullying, no matter their age. It hurts my heart to write this, but sadly, through my own experiences with Callum, I know it’s true.
Life can be very cruel!
Just imagine, to even try to get through a day as a sufferer of allergies, eczema and asthma, you have to battle:
And then, when you’re somehow, just about coping with all of this, and you then get the ‘kick in the teeth’ in terms of bullying, you can totally get why it becomes a bit much. Right?!
Most often, it’s through ignorance and sheer lack of understanding. Sometimes, it’s not.
I like to try and see the positives in things, and think that with better education and more understanding, these situations will become fewer and fewer.
So, you’re battling on behalf of your little, or you’re a sufferer yourself, you’ve learnt to deal with it. Life is what it is, there’s no use complaining. It’s better to get on with things.
There is no one with a bigger smile, and a happier disposition on the ‘outside’ than a sufferer, let me tell you! They may be crumbling on the inside, but on the outside, they are this ray of sunshine that just makes people want to spend time with their warmth and humour. Callum is no exception. He goes through utter hell constantly, but everyone will tell you that he’s this little ball of giggly and fun energy, and it’s a pleasure to be in his company.
Quite incredible when you think about what he goes through, how can he still be so chirpy….!
I’m all for keeping this happiness going, and some!
It’s half term here, so I thought as a treat, I would take the kids to the cinema. Popcorn and a good film, what’s not to love?
Boxtrolls, that’s what!
Seriously unimpressed, and very disappointed! It’s the first time ever that I can actually say I take offence to a film.
In fact it’s more than offence, I am incandescent with rage that this film was ever allowed to be passed through whatever channel it goes through to be shown to the general public.
To quote from the official description of the film:
There is action where the villain and his minions aggressively hunt and capture the boxtrolls. The villain has a severe lactose intolerance condition that makes him puff up grotesquely whenever he consumes dairy products’
I’m sorry, but I don’t think a severe allergic reaction is something to be laughed at. We nearly lost Callum twice due to severe allergic reactions! It’s utterly heart-breaking to witness, and you live in constant fear of it happening again, and at any time!
One of the top critics said about the film:
I can’t remember the last time I saw a family animation so visually rich, tightly scripted, charmingly performed which was also built on a sound and progressive message’
I’m sorry, what???!!!
The only message it’s giving, is that it’s ok to bully people with allergies to a humorous advantage! And I’m sorry, but that’s really NOT ok!
Chloe has had a few friends tell her the film is very funny, and she has asked to go and see it. I’ve had to explain to her, that I will never allow her to see it, nor will I spend any money on something which is so utterly irresponsible in its message about allergies.
Can you imagine, if I was sat in the cinema with her, and she watched this reaction happen? She’s so protective of her little brother all the time, never mind when he has a reaction. She would be totally beside herself. And as for the psychological damage it could do to her, and in fact all of the children affected by allergies…..
Makes you think twice doesn’t it!
I’m so disappointed, I usually love watching films with the kids, but this one leaves me feeling sick to the stomach!
Almost unbelievably, it’s come round to autumn time. After a bit of a slow start, the leaves are now creating a carpet on the floor with abundance! It really is beautiful out there at the moment, with all the vibrant colours around.
But…….Is it just me, or has this year just quite literally flown by? It’s been one of those ‘blink and you miss it’ years!!
How is Callum now 3?! He’s still my little baby boy, he can’t be 3!
How is it ¾ of the way through the year?!
How can it be half term and Halloween next week?!
Callum and Chloe are very excited about Halloween! It’s a big thing in the village we live in, and a lot of kids and houses take part, which is lovely. Whether it’s hot, cold, wet or dry, they always have so much fun.
What they don’t know, is I’ve gone and bought them some new outfits for this year, which I will surprise them with on the morning of Halloween – and I can’t wait to see their faces! They’ll look great when they go trick or treating in the evening!
When Callum was at the start of his journey with allergies, Halloween and trick or treating used to absolutely terrify me. It is one of the biggest setting for contraband and cross contamination to breach the very careful barriers that have been put in place to keep him safe and well.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve taken a lot of time to explain to Callum and also to Chloe, the importance of not eating anything given to them during trick or treating, or in fact at any other time of the year! We ask them to leave their collection bags on the side when they get in, and their ‘special’ treat is that they can look through them the next morning, and choose 1 sweet to have with their breakfast.
Some may say I’m a meanie…..!
I say, I’m a mum of a severely allergic child, and I’m merely keeping my boy safe!
Once they’ve gone to bed, I will go through the bags, and swap the things that are safe for Callum, with the ones that aren’t. Chloe tends to do really well out of it, and gets a lot of chocolate!! For anything I’m unable to swap, I have a stash of safe sweets that I replace the unsafe ones with.
Both kids are none the wiser, Callum stays safe, both children are happy with their hoard, and I’m a mummy breathing easy, knowing my baby boy hasn’t missed out on the fun of Halloween and has stayed safe for another year!
I found out last week there is currently a new project that has started in the US this year, which I absolutely love! And it would be beyond amazing if the same idea could be adopted next year in the UK – Allergy UK maybe this is something you would be happy to work with me to achieve?!
It’s called the ‘teal pumpkin project’. Participants paint their pumpkin a teal colour, so that other children know they will get non-food treats at their house, thus making it completely safe for them! No risk of foods containing allergens, no cross contamination, and no having to swap something out - which any parent to an allergic child will tell you, is utterly heart-breaking to watch when you see your little one's face fall when they realise they can't have something!
Next year, I’m going to see if I can get our village to buy into this concept. And, if I can find some suitable paint, I may even try to paint Callum’s pumpkin next week to show our support! Glow stick bracelets, little foam plane kits etc, all are just as much, if not more fun than sweets, and can be bought at a similar price.
For the look on my little boys face, knowing he's completely safe and not having to get me to swap or check anything first, to me, it's worth absolutely everything!
Birthday parties and allergies, sounds like a total nightmare doesn’t it! Just those 2 words in the same sentence…. Birthday party…….allergies……..
It’s one thing dealing with a single food allergy, add a whole load of allergies, and it becomes a bit of a nightmare. This year, it became even more difficult as Callum is now not able to have wheat either.
So, imagine, birthday party time rocks up. Usually, you’d go to the supermarket, keep things simple and easy for yourself, pick up some ready-made sausage rolls, quiches, pizzas, make some sandwiches, maybe pick up some fun cake treats, ice cream and some sweets. Perfect party food, right?
None of the above foods tend to be safe for the little dude. We could just about get away with it before, but now wheat is also part of the mix, most things are now out of bounds! I know, it almost seems cruel.
As a result, with Callum’s party fast approaching last week, I needed to make sure that I made all the food for him in the run up to the party. On top of all that, my mission was to make sure that every single bit of food that was available for the party was totally safe for him – I refused to have any foods on the table that he couldn’t eat, that would be just downright unfair!
I always do food for the adults as well as the kids. So, on the children’s menu for the party was:
And for the adults:
When you look at the list, it doesn’t seem all that different from what you would aim to get when you go shopping. And all of the children’s menu was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, tomato-free, and wheat-free!
I’m not going to lie, it was an awful lot of work to get it all together, with some forward planning for things like the ‘nomato sauce’ for the pizzas, but it worked!
For anyone reading this and wondering/ worrying about how you could possibly make food that covers multiple allergies, birthday cake included (!!), it actually can be done, nothing is impossible!!
Today has been a very special day in our house, it's the little dude's 3rd birthday!!
In spite of everything that he battles on a daily basis, he still remains the bravest, most cheerful, smart, amazing miracle of a boy, and our hearts are bursting with pride and love!
Yesterday, he had such a severe reaction at his child minders, he was violently sick, and when I say violently, our child minders has been doing this job years, and even she was shocked at the amount he produced! Poor baby! God knows what set him off, he only had safe foods. It was just one of those things, and just bloody bad luck it was the day before his birthday!
He was very subdued last night, and didn't want much more than cuddles.
This morning he was complaining of tummy ache again, but seemed better after breakfast, all be it very pale!
We had planned on taking him out for the day, but with how he was feeling, and the weather (torrential downpours are an understatement!), it was better to stay at home and open presents - which Callum was quite happy with!
Happy birthday bubba!!
It’s been just over a week since the day arrived for allergy testing.
And I’m still trying to get my head around it all!
We’ve now had written confirmation of the results of the RAST test, which show that Callum isn’t suffering from coeliac disease. I am so grateful and relieved, words can’t even describe. It’s also unlikely that he is suffering from Crohns. Again, thank god!
This kid goes through so much already, he really deserves a bit of a break!
The most likely result we have been given, is that Callum is suffering from Non IgE, non-mediated wheat allergy. This confirms the suggestion of removing all wheat products from his diet. Once completely out of his system, allowing his system to cleanse itself, and then slowly reintroducing to see if any symptoms occur is the only way of truly getting an accurate result.
To be honest, if it helps to relieve the horrible symptoms he’s currently experiencing (excess bloating, discomfort, bloody stools….!) then I’m all for it.
Anything to make him more comfortable and less in pain!
We were also advised to slowly start to reintroduce egg as he showed up negative during testing.
I’ll be honest, I was (and still am!) somewhat wary of this given his previous reactions to egg!
The safest way to test, is to give food that has egg in baked form, so what better way than to create another cake recipe – which I will post soon, I promise!
So, I made a kind of apple clafoutis type cake, that takes 40 minutes to bake. And it’s still dairy-free, wahoo! J
All good so far!
Gave a slice to Callum, and he loved it!!
The cake was given to him for lunch yesterday.
Within an hour, he had puffy eyes, shiners, and seemed out of sorts.
By last night he had a snotty nose, was itchy and eczema was flaring….
He had us up most of the night due to his eczema making him incredibly uncomfortable.
And then, all day today he’s been very very snotty, coughing, sneezing, itchy, nasty nappies……..
My guess is ‘reaction’, it seems too much of a coincidence!!
So, my question to you lovely lot:
Reaction or a simple cold?
For the past few weeks, we've been gearing up for Callum to have repeat allergy testing, and on Tuesday of this week, the dreaded day finally arrived.
It started with a visit to the consultant just over a month ago for a regular review and check-up, and discussion about the allergy testing that was coming up. As part of the preparation for the allergy testing, we were asked to trial him on 3 food types, which included trialling him with strawberry, which didn't quite go according to plan!
In fact, it was far from what we had been expecting, and scared us somewhat!
Let's be honest, the poor little dude has had a pretty rough ride in the lead up to the appointment. And, after all of this, we also had to go through full repeat allergy testing. On top of this, and because of ongoing tummy symptoms/ issues, Callum was also booked in for blood tests, primarily to test whether he may be suffering due to wheat and/or gluten.
I was absolutely dreading the appointment day, particularly after the last round, which quite frankly was a horrific experience to go through!
We dropped Chloe off at school as normal, and then Callum and I headed off to the JR, me with fairly high stress levels, Callum his usual calm, cheery and smiley self.
On arrival, his consultant explained that they would be testing for 18 allergens due to the extent of Callum's reactions, and also to see if any had improved at all.
That's an awful lot of things to test in one go, especially for such a little person.
On top of that, he had the blood tests to get through, which were also to include RAST testing as a result of the query around wheat and gluten.
So, it started with Callum having his arms numbed, so that it would be a slightly more comfortable experience whenthey drew the blood. 5 vials were taken in the end (!!!) and he didn't even flinch, not even a tear!
Brave brave dude!
Then came the important bit, the actual skin prick testing. Last time, it had to be done on Callum's back because he was covered so badly with severe eczema. This time round, his skin is thankfully much calmer, so they were able to do the standard skin prick test on his arms.
Somehow they managed to fit all 18 (yes 18!) tests onto his 2 little arms.
These pictures show immediate reactions within just a couple of minutes...!
Such a brave little soldier, again no tears, but he did complain of it being very sore and itchy!! I'm not surprised, I think I'd be pretty damn sore if I was experiencing that too!!
So, at the end of it all, it was confirmed he still has severe immediate reactions to:
Interestingly, egg has now become negative response for the first time, so we are now considering an egg trial to see if he can cope. If successful, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities food wise, so fingers crossed!!
The not so good news, wheat has now become an immediate response, which we were kind of expecting. It now means we need to exclude wheat from Callum's diet, and see if it improves his symptoms.
So, back to the drawing board, and new learning time for mummy!
Watch out for some new recipes as I try to overcome this latest hurdle in the journey to get Callum better!
Every day with Callum is a challenge, anyone who is part of the allergy world will agree with this. You are always on the lookout for something to happen, or a reaction to occur.
But sometimes, things happen that are totally left field, and beyond your control, no matter what you do!
During the summer holidays we all went away for a weekend in France, and had no issues while over there, other than Callum suffering his usual allergy symptoms. In fact, it was so warm and sunny over there, the vitamin D worked wonders on his skin - it was the best it has looked for a long time. Since being back in blighty, it's gone back to its usual itchy and blotchy form however.
So, a foreign country, and no issues. Get back to the UK and terra firma, and it all hits the fan....!
Picture the scene, the plane lands, we walk down the stairs, go across the tarmac to the waiting bus which will take us to the terminal, hold Callum's hand as he steps up onto the bus helping him up in the process, and he screams!
And doesn't stop!
And his arm is hanging limply by his side!
He's utterly inconsolable!
I hold on tight to him, to stop him moving whilst the bus is moving, and he still is inconsolable.
Ahhh damn it!!!!
As soon as the bus stopped, and I lifted Callum out, along with our luggage, I knew straight away that there was something very wrong!
After giving him a quick check over, my suspicions were either dislocation of the elbow or shoulder.
The security guard came over to ask if all was ok, and requested first aid to come and check Callum over. Due to him being so young, they also requested ambulance support.
The first response attender arrived, and diagnosed 'pulled elbow', an almost dislocation of the elbow, and very painful until it pops back into place!
The airport team were fantastic! Whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive, border control took our passports away and got us security cleared. The security team collected our baggage and brought it to us, and they also got our car delivered to the airport as well.
All while we sat waiting for the ambulance to arrive, trying to keep Callum calm and comfortable. A very impressive team, who we are very grateful to!
Callum's way of coping is to fall asleep, when ever his body is going through trauma, he falls asleep very quickly to protect himself. To anyone who doesn't know him, it can be quite unnerving, and it initially worried the security guys, until I explained. Bless him, they were all really impressed with how brave he was.
During the ambulance ride to the hospital, Callum started to gain some movement in his arm - a really good sign, as it meant the elbow was popping itself back into place!
By the time he was in A&E, it was almost back to normal. A bit of manipulation and a dose of brufen later, and he was almost back to his usual chirpy self, all be it slightly cautious and careful of his arm! We got to escape soon after, with strict instructions to keep his arm rested as it could easily happen again now!
The brave soldier strikes again!!
The summer holidays is a fabulous time to regroup as a family, and simply spend some good quality time together. If we're all honest, it's something that is usually lacking in 'normal' every day life. It's not through any fault of ours, life just kind of gets in the way doesn't it.
There's always the mad rush of the morning, trying to get everyone washed, dressed, fed and bags packed for the day ahead. The inevitable sprint back to the house for the item you almost always forget (and usually when you're already running 5 minutes late!!) when you're trying to balance 2 kids, a laptop, more bags than you actually probably know what to do with, little toys that the children 'have to have' with them.....!
Add to that, the perfectly timed filling of a nappy, and the ensuing 'mummy, mine done a big poo, need mine nappy changed....!!'
You may laugh, but we've all been there, and if you're anything like me, it's at least twice a week, if not more!
On top of all this, Jonny works shift, and is either out at stupid-o-clock in the morning if on the early shift, or not back til late into the night if on the late shift. And he also has to work a lot of weekends.
It really doesn't leave much time for family life!
So, I really do cherish the time we get as a family, very much!!
I use the time to not just try to get back some energy levels, but also to catch up with the whole family, do things together, and enjoy spending as much time as possible together.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, Callum has loved having us around more. He's really blossomed into a cheeky, adorable, affectionate little boy.
He's become quite clingy to me too, and wasn't too happy with me going back to work at the start of the week.
But we've also noticed that he's become very angry on occasion.
All toddlers go through a phase of showing anger/ displeasure when they're told off for doing something they shouldn't. Tears of frustration if they don't like being stopped from doing something they're clearly enjoying. Screams to vent their build up of emotions.
Chloe went through this, she was quite a handful while we negotiated this part of her toddler journey, and we did struggle sometimes. It was hard work, bloody hard work as I'm sure you can all appreciate, sympathise with!
Callum is going the same way, no change that, gone the same way.
It's to be expected!
I'd be worried if he didn't have the same transition!
He seems almost more angry than Chloe was. And if someone has caused his anger, he wants to retaliate and vent his anger by doing something he really shouldn't.
Pulling up Grandpa's beautiful flowers...
Pouring almost a full bottle of blackcurrant squash all over our new kitchen floor and island unit...
Squirting cetraben into his brand new carpet....
When you tell him off, you can see he understands what's happened. He knows what he's done. Of course he does. He gets the whole consequences thing.
And sometimes he smirks.
Oh yes, this kid is smart, way too smart.
He outsmarts us regularly!
I'm now wondering if it's all the frustration of what he's gone through, and is still experiencing during his short life. The more I think about it, the more it seems to make sense.
Let's face it, the poor little dude has suffered so much, and been so poorly, and it's still this way. He's not reached a point where he's not suffering any more, we're still learning to control all his allergies and eczema. It's a constantly changing and evolving journey.
It's almost inevitable that it will eventually come out in some way or another. And I do think it is now starting to come out.
I just hope that he's not been too scarred or traumatised by what he's gone through, and hope and pray that life becomes just that little bit easier for him as life goes on.
After all, a mothers role is to protect their little ones for life, and it doesn't seem as if he's been very protected so far, no matter how hard I fight for him!
Have you experienced something similar? How did you cope with this? How can I help Callum any more than we do already?
Over the past few days, as a family, we have taken things a bit easy. Lets face it, you can't run on autopilot forever, and we go through more than our fair share of stresses and strains on a daily basis. Besides which, this was the first proper couple of days off in I can't remember when.
With Chloe on summer holidays, F1 on summer shut down, and me on a week off from the NHS, we decided to go and stay with my father-in-law for a few days, and explore some of the sites close by.
On one of the days, we had the most wonderful time visiting Cheddar Gorge! A real family day out, with so much to do, you almost need more than a day to take it all in. The children were in awe over the caves, the mystical jewels, the hundreds of steps that you can climb to the cliff walk, which they ran up as fast as their little legs would take them, and delighted in the wonderful sights at the very top. Chloe was very proud to beat us all to the top!
Callum got very excited with the open top bus tour that runs through the gorge, and thoroughly enjoyed visiting the cheese factory to see how it was made (even if he couldn't taste any of it!).
We thoroughly recommend it, definitely well worth a visit!
We also visited a very windy Weston-Super-Mare, and in spite of the cool conditions of the sea, Chloe and Callum were insistent on going for a paddle. Fair play to them, it was damn chilly, but they had a wonderful time splashing about!
To give me a bit of a break from cooking, my lovely father-in-law took us out for lunch on one of the days we were there.
For anyone who follows this blog, you will know that we have had some very different experiences when visiting Harvester.
As we had had such a good experience with Harvester in Kidlington, we decided to give the one in Gloucester a try.....
I initially didn't say anything at all about Callum, as I know the menu quite well now, and I'm fully up to speed with their training and know what they are capable of.
My father-in-law was the one who set the ball rolling, warning our waitress (Tocana) as to the fact that Callum is 'allergic to the world and his wife', and even mentioned about having had a good response in Kidlington.
Tocana was immediately on alert, and I have to say, she did a wonderful job! Callum had asked for the children's fish dish, but when checked with the chef, it became apparent that it contained milk and egg, so unsuitable for Callum. We decided on the usual grilled chicken that we order when at Harvester, and Tocana promised to make sure that the grill would be washed down so there would be absolutely no cross-contamination.
While waiting for our food, Chloe needed the toilet, so off we went, leaving Callum with Jonny and my father-in-law. During the time we were away from the table, the food arrived. Callum asked Jonny if he could have some of his corn-on-the-cob. Jonny initially was about to, but Tocana questioned whether it was safe because of the ingredients on Jonny's plate. She was right, it wasn't safe!
Fair play Tocana, that seriously impressed me!!
Overall, we had a really great experience, well done Harvester, you are totally delivering on what you set out to achieve. And I will now happily recommend you to the allergy community as a safe place to eat!
I'm slightly suspicious though, knowing we were going to Harvester, I checked my blog stats before leaving, and then when we got back, and there was significant activity on my previous blog posts on Harvester......! ;)
Maybe Callum should become the face of an allergy safe menu for Harvester....! Give me a call head office, you have my number, I'd be more than happy to talk about it!