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Allergies are very common and when you find out your child has an allergy; the first reaction is to panic.
But did you know allergy is the most common chronic disease in Europe, with over 20% of the population affected by an allergy of some sort. Allergies come in all shapes and sizes, with every individual suffering from symptoms in different ways.
To raise awareness for allergies in children and to help those parents who have children with allergies, we asked Jeni from head office about her experiences of food allergies and how it has affected her and her children’s life.
When did you find out that your daughters had food allergies?
Sophie was 18 months and Beth was about 9 months.
What are your children’s food allergies?
Sophie (now 10) has a peanut allergy which she can suffer an anaphylactic shock from and Beth (now 3) is allergic/intolerant to Citrus (still undergoing tests). Her reaction is Flu like symptoms for around 2 days, or if it’s in a cream or soap she gets a painful rash.
How do you manage the allergies in your day to day life?
It really is very routine to us but every day can be a learning curve. In both cases when first diagnosed, my food shopping would take ages, I had to read the back of everything. Now, we take it as it comes and stay as safe as possible. As you go out of the house most people would take keys, wallet, phone - ours is keys, wallet, phone, EpiPen and Beth’s hand soap.
How do your girls feel about their allergies?
They are both amazing about it but I suppose as they have not ever known any different, they live as normally as they can. They always check packaging, ask and are very aware of others around them. It can be a challenge for them as they are singled out sometimes and have to miss out on certain things. They have to deal with peoples comment or rolling their eyes at them for being annoying. Sophie says – “I feel OK, because I learn what I can eat and I can help others who have allergies. I like it because it means I’m special.”
In a recent survey 36% said they found their experience whilst travelling poor or very poor, do you agree with this statement?
The travel companies have in fact always been excellent. It’s other holiday makers, passengers on planes and restaurants abroad that are the biggest hurdles. People do not understand the severity of an allergy. Sophie could die. I had a man once argue with the flight crew, he said that he was very angry that he wasn’t allowed to eat his peanuts on the flight, he ALWAYS ate peanuts when flying. The person with the allergy wasn’t going to eat them and he wouldn’t share them so what was the problem? The cabin crew were great, they explained very calmly to him that the person on board can have a reaction by airborne or touch and he apologised. I think it’s just educating people more, we really need to raise awareness.
What advice would you have for other parents whose children have food allergies?
Don’t panic. It’s important to feel safe but not scared. We try to stay as laid back as we can and not make a thing out of it for the sake of the girls. We talk to them about their allergies a lot so that they stay aware. Especially with Beth, being 3 and not allowed to try treats, such as a jelly sweet, have cake without checking or eat jam on toast. These are all incredibly confusing for her, especially when sweets are given out in class on someone’s birthday! She deals with it by accepting them and saying thank you, then she runs out of school shouting “I’ve got sweets for Sophie!”
If you have any concerns with food allergies in your children, we would advise going to your doctors straight away. To find out more information or for more support, please visit the Allergy UK’s website here.