Food Allergy Week May 14-20, 2017
Australian children have the highest recorded rate of food allergies in the world. One in 10 babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy. As, Food Allergy Week coincides with Mother's Day this year we are highlighting the awesome work of Aussie Food Allergy mums and advocates.
Australia has the unfortunate title of "Food Allergy Capital of the World". Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions quadrupled in the last 20 years, while alarmingly the number of allergy-related deaths in Australia is increasing by 10 per cent each year. Food Allergy Week, May 14-20 is an initiative of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia to raise awareness of food allergies in Australia.
In our Food Allergy Mum Interview Series, we hope to promote understanding and insight in to the challenges of parenting a child with life threatening food allergies, along with the need for change to build an allergy aware allergy safe commUNITY!
Caroline Partridge, Food Allergy Blogger
What are your child’s allergies? When did you find out?
Miss 4 is allergic to too many foods to list. Right from day 1 I knew there was something up. She screamed constantly, had rashes and vomited A LOT! It took about a year to work out exactly what was going on but the picture is still a puzzle right now. We talk about safe foods - right now she has 13! Her diagnoses include food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), eosinophilic oesophagitis (EoE), mast cell activation disorder and asthma. Combined they mean she is allergic to or sensitive to hundreds of foods, chemicals, animals, plants etc. But really she is just a 4 year old with an attitude to boot!
What would be one of the most difficult aspects of daily living with food allergies? Or one of the biggest challenges raising a child with food allergies?
The single biggest challenge in our journey is helping Miss 4 to understand her situation. I want her to know what she is allergic to and what that means. I want her to have the confidence to advocate for herself and begin to help educate those around her. The only way to keep her safe is for her to be active in her own safety. And I need to do all of this whilst also supporting her, teaching people around her, and showing her that different isn’t bad, and food isn’t everything. It is about safety, but also inclusion. So many hours go into making safe alternatives so she can enjoy the power of food in social situations and celebrations as much as humanly possible. Man can I make some interesting things.
How important is the support of friends, family, and community?
It takes a village to raise a child they say. And our village is more important than ever. It helps keep Miss 4 safe. And it supports her and me in each hurdle we face. There are not many people who truly understand the struggles, but there are so many people that help and support. Sometimes it is as simple as taking the time to ask how Miss 4 is doing, and really wanting to know the answer and understand as much as possible. Those people aren’t numerous, but their power is not to be underestimated. As an allergy mum, the internet has been my most powerful tool. I have met so many people along the way experiencing similar situations to us. Their wisdom and insight, suggestions and recommendations, and just genuine loving care and support has been an amazing resource I would never have expected.
What would you like other people to know about caring for a child with food allergies? How can families who don’t live with food allergies be extra safe around your food allergic child?
There are so many things I would like people to know about caring for Miss 4. And there are so many things I can teach non-allergy families that could help keep her safe. But in the end everything comes down to one key thing - ASK! Don’t stare, don’t judge, don’t worry, don’t wonder. Just ask. Nothing is a silly question. The more people I can tell, the more chance there is of keeping every allergic child safe. So, speak up. I love finding ways to explain complicated medical situations, I love talking about the food I work so hard to make for her. Knowing that people care enough to ask is very powerful.
What would be one piece of advice for parents who have a child with new food allergy diagnosis?
Find someone to talk to. It is lonely, hard, scary, stressful. But you don’t need to do it alone. Australia is the child food allergy capital of the world. So, build a community, or join one online. Use this to support you and help you, use it for resources and recipes and food substitution hacks. Use the knowledge of those that have gone before you to make the journey just that little bit easier.
Thanks for being a hardworking food allergy awareness advocate, and an inspiration. What inspires you?
Miss 4 inspires me. The way she just gets on with life as a cheeky 4 year old whilst everyone else is bumbling around trying to figure her out. She knows she is different, sometimes she has a little foot stamp over having different cake, but next minute she is out the back door throwing a ball for the dogs and jumping on the trampoline. She will change the world that one, and my job is to help her understand her lot in life and make it fabulous.
Caroline Partridge is a busy working mum of two beautiful children, she is also lives with her serious food allergies herself. Caroline runs a blog Food for Our Kids – Aussie Allergy Mum with helpful resources and ideas for food allergy families. She shares healthy easy to make food and lots of useful information for nourishing our children everyday. Caroline is a paramedic, and has a masters degree in nutrition.