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Allergies, intolerance and food preferences for dummies

When my child was diagnosed with an allergy at around 3 years old, it was a long and annoying journey of trial and error, prick tests and blood tests, but we nailed it down to a bug… a crushed-up bug… that seems to be in everything from lollies to biscuits, from paints to playdough.

It is used as a colouring and it was difficult trying to find out the exact ingredient, but we are glad to finally know what it is and to eliminate the vomiting, eczema, hives and emergency A&E visits from our daily lives.

When I joined a Facebook allergy group I was amazed at how little I knew about different types of allergies and reactions. It was certainly an eye opener… and I truly felt like a dummy.

In a lot of ways too I felt like a fraud having only one kid with only 1 little allergy that can be treated with antihistamine and a few of us in the family with intolerances to wheat, fructose and lactose that is easily managed by… well… just avoiding it.

It is annoying at parties when Scarlett can’t eat much, but it’s not life threatening, it is frustrating repeating the same thing to people when I say my kid can’t have the cheerio sausages they are offering, but she doesn’t have to wear a t shirt with the words “I am allergic to eggs and nuts”.

It’s hard to have to bring our own food somewhere when I know there will be food offered, but, I don’t have to carry a $200 dollar epi pen wherever I go, paid for out of my own pocket because the government doesn’t subsidise life threatening anaphylaxis in babies and children.

There are children and adults allergic to not only the top 8 allergens… eggs, dairy, tree nuts, soy, peanuts, crustacean, fish and wheat. You can be allergic to ANYTHING! Spinach, rice, meat, apples, chickpeas, food colourings, bananas… water on your skin!

You can have allergies to the environment, dust mites, cats, pollen, the gold on your rings, the leaves of a certain plant, the smell of perfume, washing powder, your own woollen carpet.

Pesticides, sulphites and preservatives can be an allergy to some, it’s an endless list.

Allergies, intolerances and food sensitivities can manifest in, behavioural reactions, eczema, asthma, hives, vomiting, diarrhoea, to the extreme cases of anaphylaxis.

Did you know there is such a thing as exercise induced anaphylaxis? Where one can potentially die after eating an allergen when they exercise soon after ingesting it? Crazy right!

Seasoned allergy parents are accepting and knowledgeable, the kind of people that have the investigative skills of an undercover agent after googling the night away and doing elimination diets over the lifetime of the child and reading every packet of food, knowing the E numbers and the different names of each allergen. They have the allergy knowledge of 10 doctors combined after spending days in and out of hospitals, talking to every nurse and doctor calling nutritionists and reading articles for hours about oral allergy syndrome.

An allergy parent is paranoid, sometimes guarded and can seem obsessed at times and sceptical and distrustful of others.

There are so many people who have some type of food issue, and it is easy to judge.

A person who dislikes certain foods is labelled as picky by a person with IBS who has to avoid a number of foods otherwise a lengthy stay in a bathroom toilet is the result.

A person with IBS who avoids wheat is often poo pooed by the coeliac community as being a fraud and not truly gluten free.

A person who has an allergy to wheat and has to carry an epi pen often looks at someone with coeliac disease ass a drama queen, “at least they won’t DIE if they have wheat” they might think.

When it comes to food, we all have a different set of views, self-imposed rules or rules that keep us from getting sick or even dying. We might just prefer certain foods, we might be trying to loose weight, get healthy or prefer not to eat animal products in varying degrees, or trying to eat organic and avoid pestisides.

So it is important to try and keep an open mind and understand that when someone says that their son or daughter can’t have a certain food they are just trying to keep their kid from harm… whatever that harm (long or short term) that may be.

The old walk a mile in their shoes is a good metaphor to remember… although just keep in mind, there are some people that can’t wear shoes… they are allergic to their own sweat.


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