As the year comes to an end, it is normal and fun to reflect on all that happened. 2014 was a big year for the blog. So thank you all for the support, follows, comments and ‘shares’. I love hearing all of your stories and comments, so keep them coming. This month has been our biggest month ever in terms of visits and interactions. It coincides with a giant change in the ‘allergy world’ – the arrival of the new food regs.
I can’t help but think that 2015 will be an even bigger year for stories about allergy living, free from foods and the booming industry that has grown out of the need – and the increasingly trendy ‘lifestyle’.
I started this blog almost three years ago and Zac first went dairy free in 2009 and gluten free soon after. In that relatively short period I’ve noticed a huge change in the foods available to us in supermarkets, the quality of the products, the ranges, the brands and the number of people buying them. The life of an ‘allergy Mum’ can be a bit lonely sometimes. You long to meet others who know the difficulties you face, but all you have to do is head to the ‘Free From’ aisle of any supermarket and you can bet someone will start a conversation with you. The same goes for supermarket checkouts. I have lost count of the number of checkout operators who have observed my purchases over the years and told me that they have tried the food, their kids eat the food, they can’t believe how many people are buying the food, and they feel sorry for me when they see how much I am spending on the food.
In the last 12 months, I have made even more blogging friends and got to know many of my followers and found some great social media groups who offer tremendous support. I have mixed feelings about social media and am no lover of using it to tell people what I had for breakfast, but I do think it is useful to be able to tell other Mum’s who are in despair what Zac had for his dairy free, gluten free breakfast. That is where I think it is crucial. There is still so little support for the parents of really little ones who are struggling with their allergies. We need this kind of information and some fresh ideas!
As I have said many times before, we have had such a fight to get past GP’s, meet ‘allergists’, get tests carried out, see a dietician etc. I have been told we are not alone. It is sadly commonplace. All of these appointments take months to come through. A six month gap between appointments may not sound much if it is for an adult but if your child is 12 months old and struggling to thrive because of ‘suspected’ intolerances, you don’t want to and don’t feel you can wait until they are 18 months old until you can discuss their problems. It is natural to want to ‘run it by’ someone in the same boat and that is why these Facebook groups etc are to be valued.
I have been told many times to trust my hunches when it came to Zac’s condition. Good job I did too, otherwise he might not be here today – there have been many hospital admissions over the years, due to croup, swine flu, unexplained raging fevers and skin rashes, allergic reactions, and more recently MRSA. I don’t like hospitals but I trust my GPs less (most of them sadly). Sorry to say it but they are very dismissive and have been wrong too many times. So when he has been ‘unusually’ unwell I haven’t waited to get him checked out.
MRSA was our big story of 2014. http://feedingmyintolerantchild.com/2014/10/12/itchy-skin-and-mrsa/
His allergies have been relatively stable, thankfully. With a very strict diet, Zac is ‘well’. He is now 6 and has a great maturity with regard to his condition and never grumbles about the food he can and can’t have. He is very careful about his choices and never takes a risk.
As I said, it takes ages to see a dietician to discuss. When we last saw ours, nearly 12 months ago we had a very poor experience. We waiting 90 minutes to see her and the appointment lasted less than 10 minutes. Zac was in the middle of a ‘skin’ episode and as we’d not yet had any blood test results, the dietician was reluctant to give us any advice at all. She just weighed him, checked his height. She asked us what he ate, gave us advice on a dietary supplement and told us she would see us again in a year, when we would hopefully have some better idea of what foods we could ‘safely’ reintroduce.
Our next appointment is now nearly here. I’m hoping to come away with a real plan this time. He had a load of tests last year and so she has plenty of data now. We have established that his skin infections were being caused by MRSA and we have now conquered that. Zac has started to try new foods and so I’m hoping that if she suggests trying something new, he will give it a go. If not, I might ask about some ‘help’. It is not uncommon for allergic children to feel anxious when confronted with new food and it is crucial not to make a big deal of it. I always like to think of it as a benefit. If Zac was too cavalier in his approach to food, he could be very ill, very often. But because he is nervous and ‘self-polices’ so well I can trust him to go to a kids party and eat nothing but what I put in his lunchbag.
And this brings me neatly back to the new food regs. I am really hopeful that these will start to be embraced and properly implemented in 2015. It certainly got off to a slow start and very few were complying before December 13th, as we discovered at Zac’s birthday party at the end of November.
He went bowling with some friends and had a joint party with a little boy in his class. I called the bowling alley in advance and asked them what foods from the menu might be safe. As was typical, they said the had no ‘free from’ foods, and couldn’t guarantee any of their foods could be free from cross contamination. They did say their chips were cooked apart from anything else and so ‘should’ be safe and they could freshly cook some bacon as an alternative to the chicken nuggets and sausages the others were having.
So we went for that and he was very happy. There is another gluten free, dairy free boy in Zac’s class and so I was doubly careful to debrief the staff on what they could and couldn’t give the boys. I had made them both some special cakes and bought some jelly and other chocolates that I knew they could eat when the ice cream was served. However, despite me saying about 10 times that they couldn’t have dairy, ice creams were still put in front of them. The boys just stared at them and then looked at us despairingly. Neither went to eat them. They just pushed them to one side and got stuck into the other treats I had made.
Next came the cake cutting, The little boy who was co-hosting had a wonderful looking ‘normal’ football cake that his Mum had professionally made in the orange and white colours of his favourite football team. Zac had a chocolate cake that I had made. I thought it looked a bit feeble next to the other one, but it had his name on it and was covered in dairy free chocolate ‘buttercream’ so he was happy. I carefully debriefed the waiting staff on making sure Zac and his friend got the ‘free from’ cake only. When I got home, I opened Zac’s party bag and noticed that they had put a slice of Zac’s cake in his bag – but the cake was smeared with the orange and white icing and vanilla sponge from the other cake. They had used the same knife to cut both cakes!!!! This sort of thing cannot happen now. It shouldn’t have happened then either but there was little more we could do back then other than complain in person and grumble on social media. Now the law is on our side and we need to do our part to name and shame anyone who is not compliant. Some lives do depend on it.
So thanks again for all of the support. We are very lucky that Zac has had such a good year. We know that there are many others out there with conditions that are so much more severe and I think of them all every day. That is why I carry on with this blog. It is more about you than us really. I just want to share our stories and experiences and news in the hope that it helps or at least makes you feel less alone. We wish you all a very happy end to 2014 and hope that 2015 brings you much health and happiness.