10 of your allergy questions answered - August 2023

I get a lot of DMs through various social media platforms and thought I would share some of the questions I have been asked and their answers. This is the more personal question edition.

1 - Are you allergic to anything?

Yes, I realised in my 20s when I stayed with my partners family that I was quite allergic to her cats. I have always loved cats and now have two of my own – Tea Beans and Cherry Berry – who are half-sisters. You can read more about Cat Allergies on the Inhalant Allergy pages.

Tea Bean and Cherry Berry, Jemma's cats

I also get contact allergic reactions to beauty products which contain methylisothiazolinone. It gives me a hot red rash, so I am a careful ingredient reader of face washes and moisturisers which seem to be the biggest culprits.

2 - What is your family allergy history?

In our immediate family

    • I am allergic to cats and certain toiletries.
    • My partner has incredibly mild hayfever which almost completely disappeared when we moved away from London.
    • My youngest daughter had a single allergic reaction to a wasp sting, but no food allergies.
    • My eldest daughter is allergic to milk, eggs, pineapple, cats and dogs. She also has hayfever and reacts strongly to tree pollen, she has suffered with eczema all her life, but this has greatly improved over the last couple of years.

In my extended family

    • My brother and maternal aunt are allergic to garlic.
    • My brother and all 4 of his children were mildly allergic to milk and eggs as babies but outgrew their allergies.
    • My sister and 2 of her children are lactose intolerant.
    • My mother-in-law has terrible asthma and is allergic to most animals and fragrances.

You can read more on the Are Allergies Genetic page.

3 - What do you think is worse, asthma, allergy or eczema?

When my daughter was little the eczema was definitely the worse to deal with, it’s such a frustrating condition and hard to find the exact cream that is right for you.

As a teenager I am more concerned by her asthma and I am vigilant about carrying her inhaler everywhere she goes.

4 - Why are you interested in coeliac disease?

You may have noticed that I do like a lot of coeliac stuff on Social Media, this is because my mother was diagnosed with coeliac disease about 2 years ago. It was a very scary time in our lives, she had some very unusual symptoms and I never suspected for a moment that it was coeliac disease.

At the point of diagnosis, she had 10+ years of intense label reading experience from having a granddaughter with allergies, so she adapted incredibly quickly and got better within a matter of months. She loves baking, so I do like to save specifically gluten free recipes for her to try.

5 - How was your daughter diagnosed?

A couple of days after she was born, she started to get a very thick yellow crust all over her scalp and constantly had bright red cheeks with a mild red rash. My doctor and health visitor were both confident that it was something that I was doing wrong, but neither could put a finger on it. She didn’t sleep very well because she had a hip brace, so I put a lot of it down to that. She is one of the older children in our family, so at this point we had no experience of allergies.

She was exclusively breast fed until the age of 5 months, when I fed her some baby rice mixed with some baby formula. Her face and lips swelled up and I called an ambulance (this is a real sugar coating of the whole thing – it was awful). They gave her antihistamines but said they didn’t want to diagnose her with an allergy as she was under the age of 6 months, so they sent me home with no advice.

I did a lot of Googling and decided to give up milk whilst breastfeeding (against the advice of my health visitor). Within 4 weeks the thick yellow skin and the bright red cheeks disappeared and she looked like a completely normal baby for the first time.

We realised before she was a year old that she was also allergic to eggs. Her milk and egg allergies were confirmed by IgE blood test at 9 months of age. I noticed that she was still sick every now and then and did a food diary for the first time. From the diary we saw a pattern of her drinking smoothies or lollies which contained pineapple, once we cut pineapple from her diet she seemed to back on track. She was also hospitalised and diagnosed with asthma at the age of 3.

6 - Have you ever made a mistake with her allergies?

I have been pretty good over the years; my biggest mistake has probably been passing on my anxiety over food to her and not making sure she had a wider range of foods given to her at a young age.

This year I had an accident with Lotus Biscoff biscuits. The plain, original and vanilla sandwich varieties are all dairy and egg free, but I accidentally bought the chocolate sandwich variety, which contains skimmed milk powder and whey powder. My daughter took a bite of one and immediately realised that it contained milk and spat it out. I am lucky that she is hypersensitive when things don’t feel right and she did not have a serious allergic reaction.

7 - Which medications do you use?

I have generic antihistamine pills which I take when a cat decides to sleep on my pillow and I also use normal eye drops to get rid of the unpleasant fluffy eyeball feeling.

My daughter has a brown (preventer) inhaler and a blue inhaler, she does not like taking pills, so still has antihistamine syrup. We currently like Aveeno cream for eczema as it’s nice and light, thicker creams make her itch.

I'm not mentioning specific brands, this should be a conversation between you and your health provider to see what is best for you - we all have different needs. What's good for one person does not work for another.

8 - What do you find hardest about allergies?

The administrative burden of having an allergic child is palpable when compared to my non-allergic child. We have allergy, dietician, and asthma nurse appointments on a regular basis. Every year, there is a lot of school administration and form filling for medications and school trips.

The biggest toll is the daily mental load of ingredient checking of food and toiletries, as well as having to think every time we leave the house.

Will she be able to eat anything?
Is it necessary for me to bring a snack?
Do we have her medications on hand?

9 - Have you thought about starting a baking blog?

This is my most often asked question - I don’t think I am a terrible cook, but it’s not something I have ever enjoyed. When my daughter was younger, I used to make dairy and egg free versions of things like cakes, biscuits and pancakes, but they always looked terrible and she was never a big fan. She still doesn’t like cake.

If things have gone well I I have some terrible looking baking pictures for your viewing pleasure below.

Baking Disaster 1 - Chocolate Fudge Darth Vader Cake Baking Disaster 2 - Sad undercooked blueberry drop scone Baking Disaster 3 - DF, EF Zebra Cake, looked OK, tasted like a washing up sponge

10 - Didn’t you study allergies for your degree?

Kind of, I have a degree in Applied Biology. I was always really interested in genetics, parasitology and disease, but managed to avoid all of the courses that would have been ideal to study for dealing with a child with allergies and asthma.

It did give me a good foundation though and a step up in understanding what is going on. I hope that I can pass that on to you by making easy to understand content.

If you enjoyed reading these allergy questions answered you can read the previous allergy questions page HERE or read the next set HERE.

If you don't want to miss the monthly round-up you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook - links at the bottom of this page.

Let me know if you liked this style of blog post – I already have a couple of questions set up for the next one, but if you have any burning questions, you can contact me on any of the social media platforms at the bottom of the page – Thanks, Jemma.

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