Allergic means different in so many ways!

14 Apr

When you tell people your child has allergies then you tend to get a variety of responses.  Some people of course think that you are just being a neurotic parent, others that it just means there is a food or two that your child can’t eat.  I’ve only met  two or three people so far who really understand just how wide-ranging the impact is of allergies on family life.

Apart from the actual attempts at avoiding certain foods (checking ingredients lists 4 or 5 times over on food products), attempting to avoid contact with people who are eating or have just eaten (particularly hard with a small child who loves hugs and kisses!), dealing with contact allergies even when there is no food obviously present (e.g. on other children’s books or toys), there are the actual reactions.

A close family member for example, up until a few months ago, believed that the ‘only’ reactions Adam was having and would ever have would be a few hives here or there. I don’t fully understand how it’s possible that she believed this almost 2 years after Adam was diagnosed but anyhow! I then had the opportunity to explain to her that yes, hives, can be really unpleasant for Adam, although, thank God, most of the time he doesn’t notice that they are there at all.  But he is also at potential risk of anaphylaxis, which can kill within just a few minutes.  She wasn’t aware of this at all.  More mundanely however, and most commonly, he gets diarrhoea, bright red eczema and of course, itchy, restless nights.  For us as parents, perhaps the hardest thing is the disrupted sleep.  For Adam, the hardest thing I think is the flared up eczema.  So far he doesn’t seem to notice or care that there are foods he can’t touch or that his hands get wiped often when we’re out and about and doesn’t mention any tummy pains.

But the sleep thing in particular means we have put off trying for another child until, God willing, Adam is at least 4 years old.  Originally, I’d wanted to wait at most 3 years. Things aren’t made any easier by the fact that I seem to need a lot of sleep and drinking lots of coffee makes no difference to my ability to stay awake!  Of course I have less control over my patience etc when I’m tired so I always nap during the day with my boy and in the evenings I’m thinking about when I can get to sleep!  I get little time to do anything much at all in the evenings apart from chat with my husband, eat and get ready for bed.

Because Adam was in so much pain and constantly vomiting after he was born, and up until he was diagnosed at 9 months, to help him sleep we held him and rocked him gently.  Perhaps he got used to this and we were then helping him sleep by bouncing with him on the gym ball up until a few months ago.  Even now, we hold him and sit on the bed and rock him with him across our laps to help him sleep.  This can take up to an hour.  I hear of friends whose children fall asleep just lying there in bed and I wonder whether Adam has such trouble falling asleep because of those early months?  In any case, the bedtimes have also really cut into our evenings.

I write this because I realised that I have been in awe recently of moms who write regularly, do craft projects, read books, organise community events etc, i.e. pack loads of stuff into their days.  But that simply isn’t possible when most of your nights are disrupted.  On top of that, there are very few cooking shortcuts we can take.  We can’t just crack an egg over a frying pan, heat some beans, pop the bread in the toaster and voila, have a relatively nutritious meal in less than 5 minutes.  Almost every week there is a new ingredient that I’m seeing if Adam is allergic to so you need to adapt to that too.  So cooking and buying fresh fruit and vegetables almost daily really cuts into your time too.

Overall, your child being diagnosed with allergies changes your family life in so many ways.  I’ve only mentioned a few here, and hopefully, as I carry on posting, I’ll be able to share with you the other ways.

How have allergies changed your family life?  And has it changed your mind about how long you’d like to wait before trying for another child?

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4 Responses to “Allergic means different in so many ways!”

  1. Madison May 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Hm! I don’t think I have time to give a full comment on this post. It would be a LONG comment. So I’ll answer by saying…

    Allergies have made our family life different to what I had expected before my son was diagnosed, but it has also made it so much richer and more positive. Life is much simpler when the only question we have to ask ourselves is “Is it safe?”.

    And again ,yes the question of baby number 2 has come up often and has come up again recently. There never is a right time when life is so consumed with the needs of an allergic child. My concern is how the needs of the baby will affect the needs of my allergic son.

    • allergickids May 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

      Someone in my family recently said that I shouldn’t have another child as it will be unbearable for them to not be able to eat certain foods in the house and that it will be impossible for me to feed them healthily on the restricted diet. They seemed to have no faith at all that a sibling would be happy to help out another sibling and that for the new baby, not being able to eat certain things in the house would be completely normal as they’d be born into it. I found the comment really shocking not least because our diet has been called wholesome/nutritious/healthy by three separate nutritionists and so a new baby wouldn’t be disadvantage in that sense. I feel babies get born into much more difficult situations than not being able to eat certain foods in the house (when baby is old enough he can eat whatever he likes out, if they aren’t allergic themselves!) Has looking after your boy in terms of allergies become more time consuming/tricky as he’s gotten older? My boy will be three in July, God willing and I feel that at the moment things are the easiest they have been, mostly because he rarely touches his face/mouth when we are out and is also understanding of having his hands wiped/cleaned frequently. He is also less touchy-feely with other kids which means fewer risks! But do things then get harder again? And are you worried about having another child who has different allergies?

  2. Sarah May 19, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Hello Olga,
    We worry about having another child, not because we’re concerned about life being difficult for us, we are very lucky that Max sleeps very well, if he didn’t I think I would feel as you do. My concern is more to do with the possibility that I could inflict the problems that Max has experienced on another child. He was so uncomfortable for so long with his eczema it just felt cruel to cause another child to go through this.
    Now he’s a lot better and I’ve spoken to one of the doctors at the BRI who assures me that the likelihood of having a second child with the same issues is very, very slim.
    Max also appears to be growing out of a lot of his allergies. The list has gone down from nearly everything except meat, rice, fruit and vegetables, to just sesame, peanuts, dairy and eggs His eczema flares up much more rarely and when it does it doesn’t seem as widespread. So life has become much easier. There’s hope for Max having a brother or sister yet!!
    As for being told by a family member that you shouldn’t have another child, I find that incredibly shocking! People really should learn to think before they speak as comments like that can be incredibly hurtful. Children can be taught from a very young age about allergies and what they can and cannot eat. It then just becomes part of their life. If I explain to Max that he cannot eat something he will ask if it has egg or dairy in it. It’s not a problem because he understands that it’s not good for him to eat those things. I keep a close eye on him if other children have foods he cannot eat, but I keep a close eye on him at all times anyway! So having another child in the house should not be a problem, they just need to be educated and told what can be in the house and what can’t and if this is how things have always been for them it will just be the norm.
    I wish you and Adam all the best.
    Sarah

    • allergickids May 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Hi Sarah! Lovely to hear from you! I had no idea Max had quite so many allergies. How has it been navigating pre-school with them? Do you still cook all his food at home? And how have you gone about knowing which ones he’s grown out of or not? Is it based on skin prick/blood tests or have you tried these foods at home? Totally agree about another child going through the eczema but I naively think that perhaps, even if the new baby did have severe allergies and eczema, we would be infinitely better prepared to help them through it. Sometimes I think back at what we were doing and not doing to help Adam and I’m shocked (more so when I think of the GPs who didn’t make life any easier ;-)). About kids learning to cope-I’d heard from people that children can ‘handle’ their own allergies and be so mature even at 4 years old and I could barely believe it. But its true, isn’t it, that they are totally accepting of having limits put on them in terms of food and touching things (and having their hands wiped every few minutes) and even find it so exciting to be taking their antihistamine dose. Resilient, amazing creatures 🙂 Nice to know you’re a hover-mother too, keeping a close eye on your boy at all times. It was something I felt a bit embarrassed about in the first year as I spent time with very laissez-faire mothers and felt I should be the same way. Buts its just not reasonable to be like that when a child has severe allergies. Hope you’re all doing really well. Thanks for stopping by! x

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