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LAUREN: How it all started...
Whilst weaning my daughter at 8 months with a boiled egg, her eyes and lips began to swell. Thankfully my neighbour was a nurse and advised me to go to A&E straight away. Tests confirmed my daughter had an allergy to egg and anti histamine medication was prescribed.
When my daughter started nursery, I was confident with the allergy procedures in place. But one day they accidentally fed my daughter a meal which had hidden egg ingredients in. This resulted in my daughter having an anaphylactic reaction. The staff administered anti histamine medication, but her symptoms did not ease and her breathing became worryingly shallow.
We immediately went to hospital where we were prescribed an EpiPen and told we would need to carry it with us at all times. I now carry two EpiPens with me in case one fails, or in case the first dose isn't enough to calm the reaction until medical help arrives.
My daughter's allergic reaction was terrifying and just goes to show you need to be alert at all times and double check every ingredient label. If I have any doubt about a product, I ring the manufacturer or check on the manufacturer's website.
No one in our family had ever had allergies, so in the beginning it was a bit of a minefield and we had to adjust very quickly. We just didn't realise how many foods contained egg, or how the food shopping would take twice as long as we checked all the ingredient labels.
If we eat out, sometimes it's hard getting restaurant staff to understand how severe her allergy is. I always read the ingredient list and talk to the chef to make sure no possible cross contamination can occur, although at times this seems such a struggle. Once to our shock, a bowl of chips arrived with a pot of mayonnaise!
When I mention to people about my daughter's egg allergy, they would assume it's only the fried, boiled, poached or scrambled egg she can't have and before my daughters diagnosis, I would have probably thought the same thing. You just don't realise how egg is used in so many products, including the hidden eggs in bread glazes or egg derivatives. The latter can be a challenge recognising ingredients like Albumin, Globulin, Lecithin, Lysozyme, Ovoglobulin and Ovovitellin, on what seems like the tiniest of labels. They sound more like characters from my sister's allergy books and not related to eggs at all!
My daughter used to get upset when she couldn't have 'the birthday cake' or treats offered from her friends, even though we tried to provide something similar. Whilst we floundered as a family, my twin was wondering what she could do to improve the emotional effects allergies were having on her niece.
And so Allergy Adventures began. In the beginning it started with my twin helping her niece understand her allergy and focus on all the exciting things she could eat, rather than on what she couldn't. Because my twin has coeliac disease, she's used to being creative with food and I loved hearing them laugh in the kitchen as they created dishes (and mess!) My twin would then create amazing themed birthday parties for her, which then moved onto a story and has now expanded into a series of allergy characters who go on all sorts of fun adventures.
My daughter has spent the past two years being a part of the development on this exciting journey and always enjoys reading the stories. The books have helped her understand her allergy, learn the importance of staying safe around food and she loves all the different characters.
I know I'm probably biased being her twin, but it's totally changed my daughter's mindset. She takes great delight now in reading her allergy book out loud, even to her school friends. And she tells everyone about her food friend characters and the adventures she can have (including the jokes that we must have heard a million times now!) It's also helped me as a parent, as I've found it a great support, not to mention fun.
Ines has blossomed into a little girl who is confident, happy and enjoys finding new foods she can have.
As you can imagine auntie and niece have a special bond and even I'm excited to find out what the next adventure may be…