The allergy mum dithers

Has anyone else become a bit of a ditherer since their child’s allergy diagnosis? I keep finding myself in situations (for example, when reading a food label or examining a suspicious looking rash), which make me have a complete Mavis moment. I’m suddenly a rabbit in the headlights and (in quavering Mavis voice) “I don’t really know”.

There have been countless times over the last year where a friend or relative has emerged from their kitchen with a packet of biscuits (or similar snack) and asked “Are these okay for D?”. Each time, two things happen. Firstly, I need to find my glasses (one thing D’s peanut allergy has taught me is that I really need to get my eyes lasered … but I digress). Secondly, I have to read the ingredients list and make a call on whether the offered snack is safe. What usually happens is that the said friend and I stand together, both staring at the ingredients label, with me muttering something like “just need to check the ingredients list and make sure there is no mention of peanuts or nuts … yep, these look fine … oh hang on …”. Yes: I’ve spotted the may contain wording. The warning which says something like “may contain nuts” or “ingredients: cannot guarantee nut free” or “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers”. Although our doctors advised us that we could ignore “may contain” warnings (provided nuts or peanuts weren’t listed in the ingredients), we have tended to avoid foods with such advisory wording. So, time hangs whilst I go through the process of (1) spotting the may contain wording (2) assuming the rabbit-in-headlights expression (3) running through the doctor’s advice on may contain wording in my head (4) assessing the likelihood of a tantrum when all his friends have chocolate cake and he has a rice cake (5) ultimately, deciding not to take the risk and explaining to my friend that I’ll give D something else instead.

The other scenario which triggers a dither is the moment where I notice D has a rash. A few recent examples:

  • The other week, I went to a friend’s house for a coffee and for D to have a playdate with her little boy. I noticed a nettle sting-type rash on the back of D’s hand. Out came the anti-histamine medicine and on came the “Dora the Explorer” DVD, to encourage the boys to sit still and take a time out for 10 minutes. What could he have reacted to? The handwash in the bathroom? I scanned the ingredients list. No mention of nuts or peanuts. Could it be cat hair? D had been climbing on the stool that the cat sleeps on. However, he’d never reacted in the past. But hold on … we’d been to the park before going to my friend’s house … and D had fallen over on the grass. So – might the cause of the nettle sting rash in fact be … a nettle sting?
  • On another occasion, we were in a playground and I noticed four spots in a line on D’s cheek. I got him to sit down, whilst I had a closer look. “Let mummy just look at your face, I need to see if you need some medicine.”. Turned out, there had been a toddler fight over a toy car. It seemed the “spots” were most likely nail marks.
  • Once at bath time, he had what looked to be a rash around his mouth. As his dad and I peered anxiously down at him, dithering over whether to give him a spoonful of anti-histamine, D looked at me and held his tongue between finger and thumb. “Itchy”, he said, then adding “Cough” followed by a pretend cough. It seems even my 2 1/2 -year-old sees Mavis coming.

So, is it just me who suffers from an attack of “the allergy mum dithers”? Or is this a widespread phenomenon? Even after having written this blog post, I know you can’t be too careful and I’m sure whenever I am next faced with “may contain” wording or mysterious spots, I will go through the same thought processes. I just hope that in time, I’ll master the art of at least appearing decisive!

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