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Life of an Allergy Mum - Part I

Erica Silcocks, our blog this week, is an allergy mum with two children living with food allergies who shares some fascinating insight into trials and tribulations of life as an allergy mum.

Erica is a true inspiration for parents living with allergies. She does great work to raise allergy awareness in the community, and has started her own coaching services to help empower parents of kids living with allergies.

Here is Erica’s story.

Life of an Allergy Mum

Erica - an allergy mum

“Hi, I’m Erica and I am mum to my two energetic boys, Jack (8yrs) and Olly (6yrs). I live with my amazing husband, Ben, and our two dogs, in Central Scotland.

The first time I had experience of an allergy was when my husband had an anaphylactic reaction to a nut bar in his late 20’s. Turns out he is allergic to Brazil nuts.

It never crossed our minds that we would have two children born with allergies, but we did.

Jack is anaphylactic to a few tree nuts as well as non-IgE to dairy, soya, eggs, and gluten.

My youngest has never had nuts as had low numbers on a skin prick test at 6 months old but also because of his brother and dad. He also can’t have dairy, soya, eggs, gluten and can only tolerate a little coconut.

Discovering your Children have Food Allergies

My start to motherhood was a tough one. Feeding was an absolute mission and if I did eventually get something into Jack, he would be sick.

After being told I was an overprotective Mum, that I was just tired or that every child cries, seeing multiple doctors and still being ignored, we ended up in A&E with a lethargic baby.

This was the first time someone mentioned a dairy allergy.

It was soul destroying.

Things got worse when we started weaning and it seemed Jack reacted to just about every food possible.

He dropped off the centile chart. It was so exhausting.

My mental health was not great, and the lack of support made things so much worse.

At 18 months old Jack had an anaphylactic reaction to a nut bar, ending with us being blue lighted to hospital. He now carries epi pens.

Fast forward to having Olly and I thought I would be more prepared this time. In a way I was, but their symptoms were very different.

Olly didn’t sleep…at all! I held him upright all night in my arms for the first 9 months, as he woke every 20-30 minutes, sore, wanting to feed but not wanting to feed.

He wasn’t gaining much weight but after having his tongue tie cut three times feeding eventually got better, but it was a long road.

Weaning was similar to Jack. Tough going, lots of reactions but all non-IgE. Once I had figured out the triggers, things slowly improved.

I’m constantly reading food labels for allergens and ‘May Contains’.

It’s normal life for us as a family to be constantly look at lists of ingredients.

I remember clearly standing in an aisle in the supermarket in floods of tears as I didn’t have a clue what I could feed my child. Everything had food allergy in it that would cause a reaction.

Over time I gained confidence, I knew which supermarkets stocked allergy friendly foods, I knew where to go to get what I needed.

I can quickly glance at the lists now and work out if something is ok or not but I will also double and triple check and even get my husband to check new foods once I’m home to make sure.

It’s a 24/7 job!

It can be difficult telling your allergic kids that they can’t eat certain foods. When the kids were little it was heartbreaking when someone offered them a treat and I would have to say no.

Birthday parties were torture! Not only did I have to have three pairs of eyes to constantly watch the boys but seeing their faces when the birthday cake came out and knowing they couldn’t have any was so gutting.

It is better now, we have our strategies. I still don’t like having to tell the boys no to a food but they are very switched on and understand that they will be ill if they eat something.

The imploring look is hard though!!

Scratch cooking helps to reassure me that my kids are eating allergy safe foods.

I make 99% of the boys’ food from scratch as we are very limited on anything ready-made. It means they have a pretty good and healthy diet but it’s very time consuming.

My husband and I are also dairy and gluten free (plus a few other things too) so cooking for us is an absolute must. We don’t have the luxury of running out to the shop to grab something off the shelf to have for dinner.

Thankfully, my Mum taught me to cook from a young age and this has helped hugely. I’m not sure I could cook for people who don’t have allergies!!

Catering for food allergies makes you an expert in reading ingredient food labels.

Although sometimes I do get caught out. It is rare but my rule is to always check over ingredients of foods that I have bought lots of times before as you never know when they might change their ingredients and not let us know.

I look for bold words first as that is a quick giveaway to how safe it might be. Once that is done, I can then look at the other ingredients.

It feels like it doesn’t take me long as it’s what I’ve always done but it probably adds a good chunk of time to my food shop.

More about Erica

Read more about Erica’s incredible services, support and top tips to manage kids allergies well.

Read more

Part II 0f Life as an allergy mum

To go to Part II of the blog and read the rest of Erica's fascinating journey as an Allergy Mum.

Read more