The Allergy Mums Club stories are a chance for allergy parents to share all that they have learned with other parents. Here Sophie talks about what she’s learned from having three children who all have non-IgE (delayed) allergies to dairy and soy.
Sophie, Lucy, Lochie and Murphy’s story
My name is Sophie and I have three children – Lucy (4), Lochie (2) & Murphy (3 months). All 3 children have Non-IgE (delayed reactions) to dairy & soy. Lucy also is allergic to cats!
Can you tell us about your journey to getting a diagnosis for your children?
It was definitely a journey to diagnosis first time around, I’d say it was 6 months before we had it sorted.
It started when Lucy was a baby. She had a number of issues feeding which had led us to get help from a cranial osteopath at around 3 weeks old. He commented that she shouldn’t be farting that explosively. From then her GI discomfort got worse. She was sick after every feed and really unsettled when laid on her back. The health visitor picked up on this and suggested I cut out dairy. This seemed to help alleviate things straight away although not completely.
Eczema then entered the mix, at which point I was constantly at the GPs. I was really struggling with the advice to try eliminating what seemed like an endless list. So, we were sent for an allergy test which showed an IgE allergy to cats but not dairy or soy. (Skin prick tests cannot detect non-IgE delayed reactions, this needs to be done by food elimination and reintroduction to test for symptoms. See Allergy UK for more information.)
By this time Lucy was 6 months old and the allergy team suggested it was likely she was non-IgE to soy too. So that was eliminated, and we’d finally got the jigsaw together.
We knew what to look out for second and third time. I noticed wind, sick and a red bum appear at around 10 days old, so I immediately cut dairy and soy. Both boys were content again within a few days. I then tried dairy to see the discomfort return. I didn’t ask for help as I was confident that is what it was.
The weeks and months after having a baby are such a vulnerable time for new mums, and allergies can make this especially challenging. How did your children’s allergies affect this period for you, and what would you say to help other mums in the same position?
It was incredibly hard and I really struggled with it. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and it was so hard to work out what to eat in the face of often conflicting / poor advice from healthcare professionals. Appointment after appointment, judgement and unsolicited opinions and advice… and suddenly having to start scrutinising allergy menus and ingredients.
Lucy’s allergies and eczema in particular really impacted her sleep. We were totally exhausted and the whole thing seemed overwhelming. My biggest piece of advice to other parents would be to trust your instincts if you think something’s off. Its not an easy journey to navigate but it’s so worth the effort when you see things turn around for your child.
Often it’s the little things we learn day to day as parents that are most helpful for others who are new to living with allergies. Can you share 5 things you have learned which might help to make life easier for other parents?
- I found it hard at playgroups when Lucy couldn’t eat the same as her friends. There was one time in particular that she watched her friends then carefully loaded up her snack plate with cheese. It broke my heart to remove it. I am more prepared now and often ask what they are having and take matching alternatives along to kids parties so she’s not left out.
- With eczema, the one thing the dermatology nurses said which made a huge difference was to only give cool baths. I use a thermometer and especially if she’s having a flare up do max 36 degrees. It made a huge difference, anything warmer makes her skin hot and itchy at bed time. In the bath we stick to plain water, or use sanex kids 0% . Childs farm bubble bath, although it says it’s allergy approved, I find makes it so much worse.
- Try lots of different creams to find what works. I prefer steroids in an ointment rather than a cream formulation, as its more targeted and moisturising. I also use the fingertip measurement technique. I use plenty of steroid early in a flare as I’ve found it clears up WAY faster. So, overall we use less.
- We found a few places that have safe options for the kids on days out. This makes life easier as we stick to them. Gingerbread men in Cafe Nero, sausage chips and peas off kids menus, jacket potato and baked beans at National Trust cafes. Fish and chips and then a tub of sorbet on the beach is one of our favourites. It’s something ‘normal’ we can enjoy together.
- I’ve found eating at friends houses can be really hard. They may not recognise all of the ingredients. Soy can be in so many things like bread, and they may not fully appreciate how important it is to avoid it. I tend to either offer to bring something I know they will eat, or take snacks for the kids on the way over so they’re not starving.
It can be really hard to think up meal and snack ideas when you are dealing with allergies, and I’m always interested in what other people are cooking to give me inspiration! What are your children’s favourite things to eat?
Our kids absolute favourite is chilli con carne with rice. I put loads of different types of beans in. Other faves are:
- Fish fingers, home made chips and peas
- Chicken, chorizo and bean casserole
- Dairy free pizzas (we use Crosta & Mollica bases and top them ourselves)
- Pasta and pesto with broad beans (seggiano is dairy free and amazing)
- We invested in an ice cream maker, and make oat milk vanilla gelato, banana ice cream, sorbets, etc. Best decision ever!
- BBQ faves: Moroccan lamb kebabs, chicken skewers, burgers, sausages, etc
- Roast dinner
- Slow cooker Moroccan lamb with cous cous
- Chicken/egg fried rice with peas, sweetcorn, mangetout and a pinch of sugar and black pepper – super quick if you make extra rice the day before too and very adaptable for different allergies.
- Lunches – ham or chicken wraps, eggs and soldiers, home made sausage rolls – jus roll pastry is a winner!
- Convenient snacks include breadsticks, oatcakes, nairns ginger oat biscuits, fruit pouches, bear paws, rice cakes, hula hoops, proper corn
You may also be interested in:
- The basics of cmpa (cow’s milk protein allergy) in babies
- This roundup of dairy and soya free bread will save you hours of label checking in the supermarket!
- A beginner’s guide to dairy free weaning
- The basics of the iMAP milk ladder
- The importance of online community support; Ally & Jenson’s story
- The challenges of delayed reactions; Jen and Elizabeth’s story
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