Saturday, March 31, 2012

Disappointment and discouragement

Oh dear, that's not a very inspiring title for a post...

I'm afraid despite a positive attitude, we've had quite a few set backs of late in our food trials and I'm feeling somewhat disillusioned. I'm counting four setbacks so far, with our last success seemingly very long ago.

After trying to adjust my way of thinking to being more adventurous, I realise that our son is anaphylactic to 4 of the 9 common food allergies... not 3 as I said in a recent post. So that's milk, egg, peanuts and tree nuts. The latter two are different categories. Even as I type this I'm realising that I'm hitting the keyboard with unnecessary force... I think there is a bit of anger and resentment hidden in these last set backs. I have to acknowledge that our last setbacks haven't been that serious - no epipens required, no trips to the hospital, not even a dose of antihisitimine. We have had to use some of our steroid creams, but mainly it's been a case of lots and lots of laundry due to diaorreah. It doesn't help that our son is in a single sized bunk bed that seems a lot more tricky to make and unmake compared to a toddler bed, especially when sporting an ever growing belly. But alas, he does love his new bed, so I can't begrudge that too much. Instead, these dramas really stem from his blasted allergies!!!

We've tried blackberries (got up to about 4 whole ones) as well as barramundi (ate up to half a palm sized piece). Because I was too adventurous, I actually don't know which one caused his problems, so for now, both are off limits. I should have spent a whole week on the blackberries, but I was impatient and let the food tests cross over. Then we tried a rice porridge which according to the ingredients doesn't contain anything new, but never the less resulted in a rash on his face within a few hours. This rice porridge was specifically labelled as allergy free, but my only conclusion is that perhaps some of the ingredients used actually contained traces of nuts or something similar. It did contain coconut, dried peaches and other stone fruit, so I'm guessing that the sourcing or control of all the ingredients isn't what it should be. Then, we tried a meusli bar of sorts, made by a special allergy-free company we use, and that resulted in terrible diaorreah on day 2 of our tests. The only new ingredient was linseed - which I did have reservations about, given it could be similar to a nut.

So there you have it, in the last month, we've had a lot of set backs, and it's basically sapped me of any desire to try other new things.Of course I can't actually keep this attitude, so I'll just indulge myself for a week or so of nothing new.

What this has motivated me to do is make another appointment with our allergy dietician - maybe she can give me a bit more direction as to which foods to try next. So don't give up reading the blog, there is hope somewhere out there... just have to keep looking, and keep reading!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turning 3, free of eggs, milk, peanuts and treenuts

Happy Birthday my not so little man! For some reason, this age seems to be more significant as I see our son go from nappies to undies, and watch him really play with other children in such a way that shows he really is not a baby anymore.

This year we decided to split his birthday celebration into two separate parties to ease the pressure and allow us to enjoy more time actually chatting to people. I'm not convinced that the first aim was achieved, but at least we did get to enjoy talking to friends more when the party size was halved. Having the first party at a friend's place was by far the best part though! Thanks Mei and Vince!!!!

As I compare the party last year to this year - there are so many differences! Food wise, we had so much more variety this time around and we didn't have to cook nearly as much special food for the kids. For those of you who also have allergic kids, we had Parkers Pretzels (mainly wheat), Red Rock Deli Potato Crisps (mainly potato and salt), Coles Spring rolls (cabbage and other vegies) and plain corn chips (mainly corn) freely available on the table... there was no cheese or cheese dip in sight, no nuts obviously and not even crackers with dairy or egg traces. It is quite a relief and surprisingly relaxing when you supply all the nibblies on the table, and for at least the first part of the party, you can let your highly allergic child run free - he was even allowed to help himself to the shared nibblies since I knew they had not been contaminated. Admittedly he ate way too many potato crisps, but I'm not complaining.

The main food event was of course the cake. A Wiggles cake for Party #1. I used the basic egg free, milk free, nut free recipe for one layer, and a new chocolate recipe for the second layer. We've managed to find a milk free and nut free cocoa powder (Planet Organic Cocoa) - which isn't as easy as you would think to find. The icing was simply icing sugar, water and food colouring. The greatest tip I have for cake decoration is simply to buy a toy to put on top! Forget trying to carve something out of cake... this is so much easier plus your child gets a toy at the end :-) We used Sweet William soy choc chips as well as SF Health Foods Premium milk free marshmallows for the added decorations, and to hide any imperfections in icing technique.

And for Party #2 the theme was Cars... I actually bought a Lighting McQueen toy to place on the race track, but our son found the toy the day before, and do you think I could find it on the day I needed it?! Oh well, I ended up washing some of his other cars and placed them on top instead... he was till happy with that... of course! I'm pretty sure us mums create some of our own headaches. The green grass was made using dessicated coconut mixed with green food colouring. Soy choc chips made the race track while the magnificent finish line was made by printing the chequered pattern onto an overhead transparency, secured with toothpicks. In the end I think I was more happy with the Wiggles cake - I think the simpler it is, probably the more glamourous it actually looks.
For lunch, we served small dinner buns (allergen free) and sausages for the kids. For adults we simply ordered BBQ chicken and I did buy some pre-made salads (which did contain dairy). But with the number of allergens significantly reduced by providing all the food, actually a lot of stress was removed and we really did enjoy having friends and their kids over. To be honest, most of the stress came from having to assemble a bunk bed and a trampoline, ready for the main event (while we were also suffering from a household bout of gastro... but that's another story all together).

And when you see something like this, with no rash at the end of the day...

... success!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hooray for being average!

We're celebrating at the moment - just did a measure and weigh and our son is officially in the 40th percentile for height and also in the 40th percentile in weight... that means he's totally average in build! Hip Hip Hooray!

Before we knew about our son's multiple food allergies, we already had to go for monthly weigh-ins with the nurse because our little tacker just wasn't putting on weight. Once we found out about his anaphylaxis, our whole approach changed, but he was already in the 3rd percentile for weight, while being 40th percentile in height. That meant he was super super skinny. Everything thing our son ate was carefully considered - not just from an allergy sense, but based on calories, digestability, fibre, glucose/fructose levels... ugh... I still think about that stuff, but there's now a lot more freedom and a lot less pressure. If you're interested in how we managed to finally stack on the weight, check out Weight Gain 2010.

Our son has just turned 3, and after being anaphylactic to eight of the nine most common food allergies, he is now only anaphylactic to three. In real terms, that meant that he was actually allergic to all sorts of foods like tomatoes, peas, onions, oranges, stone fruit, just to name a few. And that didn't even include all the basics of egg, milk, wheat, oat, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. But I'm now trying to readjust my way of thinking based on his anaphylaxis to just three of those foods. I've realised that I probably don't need to worry so much if he touches a shell at the beach now, and he can probably finally dip his hands into those touch and feel ponds at aquariums that can have prawns swimming in there. All these little things that others would take for granted have been up till now a cause of panic and prohibition. Now, I'd probably be very watchful, make sure I have my antihistimine medication ready and just clean his hands soon after. Haha, for non-allergy mums, you probably think I'm still being neurotic, but such is the life of an allergy mum.

I have gained confidence though - our son can now officially and safely eat fresh peaches, nectarines, plums, and even lychees after our food trials in the first couple of months of 2012. That is quite an accomplishment, not to mention the excitement for our not so little guy. But, as with all things, we have also recently had a setback. A couple of days of barramundi (a white flesh fish) have apparently led to about a week of very messy, very smelly, digestive problems. ie. diarrhea. Yuck! I'm just glad he's still in a toddler bed so that the sheets are smaller to wash.

Oh dear, that's not a very nice note to end on... My next post will be all about birthday parties and the like, and there's a lot of good progress on that front too! So, if your child has life-threatening food allergies, take heart, things change over time, and if not, then we change - hopefully for the better, for the stronger, and for the bigger where our children are concerned :-)