How old is your son and what allergies does he have?
My son is 19 months and has tested positive for 14 foods – Milk, egg, peas, beans, lentils, sesame, soya, tomato, banana, peanut, almond, orange, lemon and lupin. We also avoid some related foods such strawberries, kiwi, chickpeas and most of the legume family.
How did you first find out your son had these allergies?
He has severe facial eczema and his dermatologist thought he may have a milk allergy so sent him for a blood test.
At what age was your child when the allergy was first diagnosed?
He was 7 months when he was first tested and diagnosed
What did you find most difficult about putting him on a free from diet?
Planning. Organisation is not my strong point but having him means I have to plan ahead for every outing, meal etc. We used to just nip to Gregg ‘s or somewhere when out shopping or out for the day. Now we take picnics and snacks everywhere. There is no spontaneity anymore.
Sometimes it can be quite difficult to diagnose and get support for allergies. Did you have good support from your doctor/allergist?
Short answer NO. He was diagnosed in May 2013 with milk, egg, peas, beans and lentils. Then a few more at the end of the July. We saw an immunologist once between these 2 occasions. She basically said wait for the next test, carry on as you are, we’ll refer you to a dietician and I’m leaving so you will be passed onto my colleague. I had to travel 30 miles to see the dietician when he was about 10 months old and she signed me off after 1 visit. I heard nothing from immunology again until November 2013 when he was admitted to hospital for his chest and the paediatrician who saw him is also the immunology doc. She had no record of him on her system. The earliest appointment with her was April 2014. Meanwhile I had his dermatologist telling me to stop breastfeeding and put him on immuno-suppressive drugs. I almost lost faith in the NHS.
How do you handle parties for your little one?
As he is little I can keep a close eye on what he eats. I always take safe foods for him wherever we go and try to make sure he can’t get to any food on show.
What is your favourite free from product?
We love koko milk, it gets used for cereal, cooking etc. Also love Morrisons free from rocky road. Almost forgot Violife cheese slices they are amazing, sorry thats three, I just cant choose.
Is there any product you can’t find for your child that you wish you could?
I think we have found a substitute for everything we want to although if he could have tomato life would be easier.
Do you have a supermarket or health store nearby which stocks the foodstuffs you need?
We are lucky to have Tesco and Morrisons which both have decent free from sections, and Aldi and Lidl while they don’t have specific sections have quite a few items we use.
Do you find you need to shop at health food shops a lot?
No. I find the products they sell can pretty much be found in larger supermarkets at cheaper prices. Although I have found a vegan shop where we get our cheese.
Do you find your family and friends understanding?
Completely. Both sets of grandparents are very willing to change foods so they are suitable for him. As are friends as we have another boy in our friendship group who is the same age as my eldest (4) who also has allergies so we have all got used to it before mine came along.
How do you find eating out with a child with allergies?
A NIGHTMARE. As I previously said no spontaneity. I have to scour the internet for allergy info for any restaurant we may go to. Once we wanted to go out for Sunday lunch so I rang ahead a few days before and explained. They were lovely and even went out and bought different gravy just for us. This was a small local pub, large chains do what they can too if you explain but generally you end up with plain chicken and chips.
Did you and your family go free from also?
As I am breastfeeding I have cut out all his allergens. All our main meals – breakfast lunch and tea are suitable for him apart from if my eldest has a cheese sandwich and cows milk on his cereal (he won’t have special milk). My partner and eldest still have milk chocolate sometimes, cheese, yogurts and flavoured crisps but everything else we have is suitable for all of us just in case he gets hold of something.
I am a mum of 2 boys aged 4 and 19 months. My eldest has no allergies unlike the young one. My story is in the questions although I would like to say we have now been referred to a different hospital and he is doing so well under their care regarding his eczema. Just hope they are as good with his allergies.
Thanks very much to Frances for taking the time to share her story. If you would like to share your story I’d be delighted to hear from you firstname.lastname@example.org.