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!
Simone Albert, Founder Oliver's Choice
What are your child’s allergies? When did you find out?
Oliver's allergies are: dairy, wheat, egg, rye, peanut and most tree nuts. We found out Oliver had severe food allergies when he was just 7 months old. Oliver had a near fatal anaphylactic reaction to the dairy in baby formula at 7 months. He swelled to double his little baby size, and was unrecognisable. His breathing was laboured, and he started turning blue. That day Oliver would have had less than 1ml, possibly less than 0.5ml of dairy. There were no pre-warnings. No eczema. No asthma. No family history of allergies. A bit of a rash around Oliver's mouth when he had a rusk. He was fussy with a bottle & before that day he was only breast fed.
What would be one of the most difficult aspects of daily living with food allergies? Or one of the biggest challenge raising a child with food allergies?
Probably the chronic stress of always keeping your child safe. The chronic stress of knowing that your child could die from this. And the continual cooking and preparing in order to keep one step ahead.
How important is the support of friends, family, and community?
Day care, kindergarten, school support is extremely important for the ongoing safety of your child as you are not there to be their voice and safety blanket, in the younger years especially. It would be nice to have friends and family support for your own sanity and relief of stress but it is not necessary. We are very lucky to have very supportive family and friends around us which we are very thankful for. We have a long way to go still for the wider community to fully understand food allergies, and how working together as a community will save lives when it comes to severe food allergies.
What would you like other people to know about caring for a child with food allergies?
It is isolating caring for a child with food allergies. It is scary and stressful. But our food allergy children are like every other child, just like your child and they just want to be included and liked and made to feel like they are not different.
How can families who don’t live with food allergies be extra safe around your food allergic child?
This is a difficult question as everyone is so different in how they manage their own family's food allergy situation. Allergies are so individual. So the best answer for this might be 'open communication'. Always ASK the food allergy family what they would like you to do to help keep their child safe? I would think that some of the same answers would be... please wash your hands and your child's hands before you play with my child. Perhaps if your child is young they could eat a safe food before they play together. Some families might offer suggestions of safe foods to share. Or others might feel more comfortable having a play date outside of eating times and in a neutral playground outside. Just always ask.
Do you have a proud mum moment (of your food allergic child?) that you would like to share?
So many... allergy kids are amazing in how brave they are with all that they have to take on! Almost 4 years ago we saw a documentary about Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) in the USA and how it was changing food allergy children's lives. Since then we have been researching, following and in contact with different allergists in the USA that specialise in this treatment. Oliver has been really wanting to have an opportunity & choice to do OIT. We had been waiting patiently for it to come into Australia but it just seemed too far away... so we put it to Oliver that if he wanted to complete the OIT treatment we would have to go to America and it might be a tough journey but he was all for it!!
Oliver has been amazing every step of the way from the first time that he had his first minuscule amounts of the allergens that had sent him to the ER on 6 different occasions before this until he tried his first 0.3 mls of real milk last week. He had a great time buying his first ever carton of milk. He has trusted his specialist and has been so brave every time he had to take his allergens everyday. We are all so proud of how he has taken this all on and is working towards his food allergy freedom and safety.
What would be one piece of advice for parents who have a child with new food allergy diagnosis?
Follow your gut as a mum. If you think something is wrong follow your instinct. Don't be afraid to speak up in protection of your child. You are your child's voice and advocate.
How can we raise food allergy awareness in our communities?
Talk more about it. Share how you feel. Share what is happening in your food allergy family. Don't be afraid to talk about it. Don't hide it.
Thanks for being a hardworking food allergy awareness advocate, and an inspiration. What inspires you?
Our children, and not wanting other food allergy families to go through what we went through. Trying to make their journey just that bit easier through sharing our stories, our recipes, our experiences and building a community to support each other. It's all about knowing you have CHOICE while living with food allergies.
Simone Albert, is the mother of two children, one with severe multiple allergies. She and her food allergic son, Oliver are currently in the U.S where he is undergoing oral immunotherapy for multiple food allergies. Simone and her family are based in Victoria, and she is also a registered nurse. Simone is founder of Oliver's Choice , a food allergy resource for families, and blog as well as a Facebook resource page. One family living with severe food allergies to dairy, wheat, egg, rye, peanuts and some tree nuts sharing their experiences, recipes & journey in hope that it will help another...