Keeping a daily diary

4 Aug

Allergies are so amazing in just how much a mystery they can seem to be.  With a young child especially, it can be hard to understand what on earth is going on.  Symptoms come and go and it is really hard to figure out what is triggering reactions.

One way you can try and gain some sense of the situation is by keeping a food diary.  When Adam was 8 months old, before we saw our first pediatric allergist a month later, I decided to keep a list of his symptoms.  When I found that diary this week as we were packing to move home, I laughed bitterly at my naivety but also at just how screamingly obvious Adam’s symptoms were.  How any layperson would be able to see that something was clearly very wrong.



I was so ignorant of what triggers might be and what reactions looked like.  I made spurious links such as when we came home from a cafe and I started to fry onions and so became convinced that Adam’s hives rash all over his neck at that point was due to an onion allergy rather than due to being a cafe for a couple of hours.  I also missed links, such as when I’d eaten a nut cake (that a mum had brought to a picnic, something I think is unreasonable in retrospect) and Adam woke from his nap in his sling, screaming his head off, sneezing, in a rash and generally quite poorly.  I thought it might be hayfever and just didn’t understand it could have been me eating the nut cake and hence transferring nuts to him.

The photo above of Adam’s symptoms diary from 2010, when he was 9 months old shows what was going on on an average day.  How any doctor, let alone 8 seperate GPs, could have missed the signs that severe allergies were at play is beyond me.

The important thing is tho that over time I learnt what is useful to include in a symptoms/food diary and how important it is to keep one and fill it in every day.  If you miss a day you might miss the links between eczema that shows up on Wednesday and what was eaten or done on the Monday and start trying to second guess what the triggers might have  been.

What to include in your daily diary?

Foods: List all the foods eaten throughout the day. I find it useful to include foods that have up until then been ‘safe’.  Its easier to list everything all in one go.  If I make a stew then I’ll list the ingredients, including whether any stock was used etc.

Activities: Write down what you got up to during the day.  Your child might have picked up trace amounts of an allergen at the playground and put his fingers in his mouth before you’ve had a chance to wash his hands. That might be what’s made his skin rough or very itchy that evening.  If someone came round and the kid had clothes with allergens on them, write that down too.

Symptoms:  I include when my boy has had hives, has been wheezy, or has eczema.  At the moment, thank God, the eczema is the most common symptom but in the early days, before we figured things out, there were days of swollen eyes, lips, problems with breathing etc.  Restless nights also get written down as well as diarrhea, vomiting etc.  Basically anything that is out of the ordinary.

Medicines: I recently discovered that antihistamines can contain banana or raspberry extracts as flavouring.  This isn’t the best news as Adam has allergies to both bananas and all berries.  So now I’m thinking back at how awful his eczema was when we visited my parents and wonder whether its because we gave him cetirizine every night to make sure he wasn’t uncomfortable.  Even before that I’d write down whether Adam had taken ‘hastabinni’ (his name for antihistamines) or whether we’d used Salbutamol or Montelukast for his asthma or Synalor or Hydrocortisone on his eczema.

It seems like a lot of detail but it really really helps you feel a bit in control.  As you’ll probably know yourself, trying to guess what’s going on is one of the hardest parts of living with an allergic kid.  Consistently writing your food/symptoms diary will take you one step closer to feeling a bit less frazzled by it all.  Try and include whether you’re using any new products e.g. clothing detergent, bath oil, bath cleaning fluids (these don’t seem to wash off very well even when they are eco and linger on the bath), moisturisers (on yourself as well as on your child).

It will of course also be interesting to look back in a couple of years and seen what you’ve all been through!



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