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Living with a serious allergy affects so many aspects of your family’s life.

Living with a serious allergy affects so many aspects of your family’s life.

by FoodMaestro | 15 July 2015

Shared Blog: Vanessa Goss

“ Living with a serious allergy affects so many aspects of your family’s life. Empathy, consideration and understanding are key as well as support from friends and family in coping with the new situation.  And now improvements in technology and communication allow us more freedom, independence and reassurance…so how did I cope before?”

Just like every other child.

Hi, my name is Vanessa and I am the proud mother of Woody (aged 15) and Tally (aged 12). Its not until my perfect little 5 month-old bundle suffered a severe allergic reaction in 2000 that I realised how we had always taken our health and diets for granted. Isn’t it obvious? Your baby is born, you breastfeed or bottle-feed him, you introduce him to solids and then he starts toddling around, picking bits of food up, trying them and exploring his new and exciting environment. 

Think again. When my son was a few months we realized the hard way that he was anaphylactic to dairy and couldn’t be bottle-fed on normal milk. Having gone through copious tests we were told by specialists that he is also allergic to eggs and nuts. The doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital were invaluable as a source of information and advice but the daunting task of feeding a very hungry baby laid ahead of us, no experience, new parents and very anxious.

Where do you begin?

Gina Ford books, allergy cook books, diet sheets laid all over the kitchen table. My amazing mums’ reading glasses were upgraded to check every ingredient (the writing on some was so small you needed a magnifying glass!) before they went any where near Woody (my son), the telephone bill went sky high from calling manufacturers of every single food on the market to check what was safe for our little man to eat and what wasn’t; we bought more Tupperware; emptied nutty, milky and eggy products from the kitchen cupboards and began on our journey to make life as healthy and normal for Woody as possible.  I learnt to cook using alternatives to dairy and eggs. Spent so much time trying to entertain and show Woody that just because he has allergies that doesn’t have to affect our lives in a negative way. That was all absolutely fine when we were at home but going to other people’s houses and birthday parties were the next hurdle. 

It takes everyone to help succeed.

Luckily our friends and family were mostly very supportive. Situations like parties where people would forget and put egg mayonnaise and peanuts all over the place would make our heart sink and Woodys’ face drop to new levels of low.  I guess you can’t expect everyone to put you first but that doesn’t cushion the blow when it happens. Especially when it is people that you feel should be looking out for you and your little baby boy who is 100% reliant on you to police things for him.

List, list and more lists.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of time it used to take to check out the allergy listings from McVities and Kellogs, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose etc. We called each individual company and once we told them our allergies they sent us specific food lists on what contained those allergens.  It was a breakthrough but time consuming and it took the spontaneity out of shopping, cooking and eating. 

We had files on egg free foods, dairy free and nut free foods, then we just had to combine them to see what didn’t have all of those in and then, bingo, that’s what was left for Woody to eat! We got there in the end….. no time to cook maybe but we knew what he could eat at least. Life started to improve!

Gradually we began to use the internet more and more, searching individual companies products, restaurants, allergen sheets and there was more information available to us and we began to venture into new territory and new experiences. How much easier it was that the internet made it so much quicker and easier to attain a quality of life that was nearly as easy as everyone else around us not suffering with this daily grind of what to eat that would also keep us safe?

FoodMaestro to the rescue.

2015……. A memorable moment, IT got even quicker! Combining a website with an app, we can now use a new app called “FoodMaestro” to very quickly look up products that have none of the allergens that we cannot tolerate. At last, the flick of a screen offers us up to date, researched information on products and allergens and we can even create shopping lists and look up foods that we can buy at the supermarket. My son even uses the scanner when out and about with his friends to discover easily (as well as showing off his new technology!) what he can eat. I wonder what the next technological breakthrough will be? What ever it is, I know it will be good and I am hoping that it may even be a cure for allergies!

I hope anyone reading this blog is feeling comfortable searching for nutritious and tasty foods for all the family to enjoy. 

You should look up this app, its such fun!!