by Stephanie Holdsworth, owner of Allerchic
Allergies affect 1 in 3 Australians at some stage in their lives. Stephanie’s story, shared below, alerts us as to why we should all have allergy awareness.
The first time we knew something was wrong with our 18mth old was when she was in the kitchen making a Pavlova with her nanna. She put her finger in the mix for a taste and almost immediately started flicking her hand around. We washed her hand, which revealed bright red skin and blisters underneath. An hour later her hand and around her mouth and cheek were covered in a red rash. Thank goodness she did not get that little finger into her mouth.
After numerous paediatrician appointments and a diagnosis of Eczema which continued to worsen, we were referred to Westmead Children’s Hospital for allergy testing with an Immunologist. A later diagnosis revealed numerous allergies including anaphylactic allergies to tree nuts and eggs. We were given education sessions on how to use the Epipen (an adrenaline pen) in case of a severe allergic reaction, an anaphylaxis plan as well as clear instructions to avoid all foods containing nuts and eggs.
Driving home our minds were racing; what if she had put that egg white in her mouth? No more birthday cakes, biscuits, or bacon and eggs on a Sunday. No more pikelets, pancakes, lasagne, or even the special treat chicken nuggets! …. I wish I could go back and reassure our stressed selves that there are GREAT alternatives available for people with food allergies.
Educating family and friends just how severe her allergies are has been difficult. “She can have a musk stick cant she?” “No, they have traces of nuts!” “What do you mean, it’s a lolly?” Once you start to read packaging labels it can be quite a shock to learn what some of the foods contain or contain traces of.
Australia has one of the fastest growing allergy rates in the developed world; someone you know probably has a severe food allergy or carries an Epipen. Allergies don’t just start when we are babies, toddlers or children. Just as you can grow out of an allergy, allergic reactions can happen at any age, and it may occur with a food or substance that you have had or been exposed to numerous times before.
I don’t want to scare anyone but this information is very important: anaphylaxis can be fatal. Do you know the signs of severe allergic reaction/anaphylaxis?
They can include one or all of the following:
- Swelling of lips, eyelids or face
- Swelling of the tongue
- Swelling or tight feeling in the throat
- Noisy or difficult breathing
- Dizziness or collapse
- Pale or Floppy (in children)
- Someone having anaphylaxis to an insect bite may show signs including; Abdominal pain, Nausea, vomiting
If you notice any of the following call an Ambulance! Severe allergic reactions happen fast and you must act quickly. If the person having the allergic reaction has an Epipen, give the injection, note the time and, again, CALL an AMBULANCE!
If you suspect your child or someone you know has an allergy see your Medical Practitioner for a referral for allergy testing, to confirm what you are dealing with.
As for us, the fact we must carry our Epipen everywhere we go has become second nature. Our three year old knows she must take her own food and wear her allergy alert T-shirt to parties and outings. She started at a great preschool this year that is very supportive and well educated in allergies and the use of her Epipen. She even tried a new excuse for not eating her veggies the other day: “I think broccoli has Eggs in it, I can’t eat eggs”.
We are a family happily living with allergies.
Stephanie has almost 20yrs experience as a nurse including time in Children’s Ward and working with Infection Control where she was first exposed to caring for patients with Eczema, Asthma and Allergies. As a mother with a child who suffers anaphylaxis and eczema she became frustrated in not being able to source appropriate products for her daughter. So Stephanie started Allerchic, The online Eczema, Asthma and Allergy support community and Shop.