Living with Food Allergy: Sienna’s Story
The day we discovered that our daughter was anaphylactic was one of the scariest days of our lives. Sienna was 15 months old at the time and to see our darling little girl have such a severe reaction to a smidge of peanut butter was terrifying.
She was covered in hives and rashes; her face swelled to twice its usual size, so much so that her eyes were swollen almost completely closed. She vomited and wheezed, struggling to get her breath. It was heartbreaking!
Photo taken a few hours after we brought Sienna home from hospital following her anaphylactic reaction. She still had the hive marks on her skin; a bit hard to see in this photo though – it was the only one I took!
Sienna had her first ‘skin prick’ tests with an Allergy and Immunology specialist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne four weeks after that first reaction. (We don’t have any allergy specialists here in Mildura). Her peanut score was very high and put her in the anaphylaxis category. There were some tree nuts that scored high also. Sienna is also ‘touch sensitive’, which means that her anaphylactic reaction won’t just come from eating, but also from the touch of the allergen on her skin.
From that day on, our lives completely changed - the Epipen never leaves my handbag. To begin with, I was absolutely paranoid about any food we were giving her. Obsessively checking food labels for ‘traces of nuts’ warnings. I tended to give her more home-cooked snacks so we could avoid packaged foods.
Eating Out and Food Allergies
Eating out was always going to be a challenge. I always ask if foods have nuts in them and most people are very accommodating. Others have been offended by my asking, particularly when at a party, or if a plate of food has been brought to our house. I’m not asking because I’m fussy, it’s my daughter’s life I’m protecting!
Starting School with a Food Allergy
Starting kindergarten wasn’t too scary – the centre was completely nut free. Starting school this year was a different story! There are very few nut-free schools in Mildura but thankfully the school we chose has a very strict ‘no sharing food’ policy. The teachers are all Epipen trained and there is an anaphylaxis ‘wall’ in the staff room of the school’s anaphylactic children. (Quite scary to see that many too!)
The Road Ahead
My two younger children have no nut allergies and have grown up just knowing that we don’t eat or have peanuts or peanut butter in our house.
Sienna is now 6 years old and I’ve relaxed somewhat as she’s grown up. She has yearly skin prick tests done in Melbourne. She has outgrown some of the less threatening nut allergies and we now include almond, cashew and hazelnut in her diet. However, her reactive scores to peanuts just get higher each time she is tested. We complete a new anaphylaxis plan for her each year.
Sienna also has a gluten intolerance. She can eat some breads, pastas and cereals that contain gluten. But when she has a build-up of them, she becomes quite sick. It makes lunchboxes a bit trickier – I alternate the days she has sandwiches and rice cakes. I make gluten-free muffins as much as possible. Her dinner each night is quite plain – meat and veggies or rice, there’s not a lot of variation but we’re lucky that she’s such an enthusiastic eater and loves a good steak!
She is about to have some further tests done for suspected fructose malabsorption, which is a sugar found in a lot of fruits and desserts.
It does make life just that bit harder and scarier when living with a child with allergies/anaphylaxis.
The best thing is to stay educated and to not be paranoid to a point where everyone becomes nervous and edgy around your child.
Sienna has grown up knowing what her allergies are and is now able to ask about any foods she’s unsure of too.
It’s not all doom and gloom! Yes, I’m more vigilant than I would have been had I not had a child with allergies. There is still a huge range of food that Sienna can eat and the bonus is, it’s opened our eyes to so many food combinations that we can make at home, that are also safe for Sienna. And to have a strong family support network is absolutely priceless; I’d be lost without them all!
All-in-all, Sienna is a thriving, happy, intelligent little girl with big dreams – no peanut is going to get her down!
About the Author:
Happy, busy wife and Mummy to three beautiful kiddies – Sienna, Chace and Alexis; Meredith wears many hats as a photographer; accounts manager; blog enthusiast; lover of mini-fashion! You can connect with Meredith at http://www.meredithdallasanta.com and an upcoming but designed to be special online space http://memandboo.blogspot.com.au
Photo Credits: Meredith DallaSanta