I was so nervous before we went on holiday. Would I be able to find enough dairy free, gluten free foods, to be able to get by? Would I be able to make enough room in the suitcase to take a good supply to get us through the first few days? Are you allowed to take a packed lunch in hand luggage? Since we had last travelled abroad Zac’s diet has become a lot more restricted and I had never faced these issues before.
Fortunately my parents had been out to Spain just before us and did a good search around the supermarkets and found a decent selection of bread, pasta, breakfast cereal, milk and yoghurts. We were self catering, so I had pretty much resigned myself to doing a lot of cooking from scratch whilst away. Eating out at home is challenging enough and even though I have some good basic Spanish, I just couldn’t face asking those questions and trying explain his condition every time we ate out. So instead I would cook for him before we went out, and take a few healthy snacks for him to enjoy, if the rest of us were eating later.
Like any normal person, Zac gets hungry when he sees others eat, even if it is food he can’t have. So even though, we took some safe sandwiches etc, he would often want a few chips or something to feel part of the meal. Any coeliac, or gluten free person, would be aware that chips in a restaurant can be risky as they may have a wheat coating for extra crispness or might be cross contaminated in the oil they are cooked in. However, in most places, Zac would try a few and seemed ok. After all he is not a coeliac according to his tests, and he doesn’t have wheat allergy – so I thought it wouldn’t be too catastrophic if he had the odd one.
One particular evening, we were all eating and the children were a bit bored, and had finished and had noticed the big ice cream board and huge freezer stocked with goodies. The ‘gluten free’ movement in Spain appears to be at a similar level to in England, as many of the ice creams and ice lollies on the board were marked up ‘sin gluten’/gluten free. The likelihood of finding dairy free ice cream is always zero, so we thought a gluten free ice lolly would be a nice treat for him. He spotted one that was pretty huge and very colourful. Lots of exotic fruits on the picture, the wrapper said if contained real fruit puree. As Zac had tested negative for allergy to fruits a while back, I thought it would be safe. Wrong.
Within minutes, probably seconds he was moaning saying his mouth was hurting, he started to cry and was scratching his tongue and said something was stinging and itching. He also said his tongue felt big. At that point I leapt across the table, and administered a very big spoonful of Piriton. After about 5 (long) minutes, he stopped crying and after about 15 minutes he was asleep. 5 minutes after that I sank a very large glass of wine – and then my heart started to beat normally again.
I re-read the lolly wrapper several times. It actually looked like a very good quality lolly. Lots of real fruit juice/puree, no e numbers or junk, no gluten and no dairy. So it had to be the fruit juice. The fruits included kiwi, mango, pineapple and passion fruit. Zac has had one other reaction like this. It was after eating a fruit salad at Carluccios. The same thing happened, itchy skin, stinging mouth – but he didn’t say his tongue felt big. But the outcome was the same – after a very swift dose of Piriton, the itching subsided and he went to sleep. That episode was what made me beg and plead and fight to get his allergy tests. When they all came back negative, I was relieved but slightly surprised. However, Dr Adam Fox had warned us that all of Zac’s ‘allergies’ could be non IgE mediated and negative test results could come back. The NHS doctors we are under have not shown any interest in investigating Zac’s ‘responses’ any further, have given no advice, so I have now decided to go back to Dr Fox.
When we first met him, he advised us to give Zac a small dose of anti-histamine (cetirizine/Benadryl for kids) every morning and every evening to suppress Zac’s slightly over active immune system. He also said administer Piriton if he ever appeared to be ‘reacting’ to anything. We met last November and since then I have got through many bottles of both medicine and the summer has been our most challenging for many years and the holiday ice lolly incident was probably the most scary.
Clearly fruits are still giving him a problem. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I recently discovered that fruits are (of course) a kind of pollen and trigger a histamine reaction. Exotic fruits are particularly known for causing oral allergy and nasty reactions, but as Zac had tested negative I had been a bit more relaxed about him having them. Never again. Thinking back I should have known he was still sensitive, as nectarines and peaches are a real favourite with him. He loves the juicy flesh, but has recently started asking to have them ‘without skin’ as it is ‘itchy and stings’. I thought he was just being fussy, but thinking back he was probably telling the truth. So for all those Mum’s whose allergic kids are really fussy, there is a lesson to be learned – it is probably best to listen to the child and if they say they don’t want to eat something because it makes them ‘feel funny’ don’t push it – they might be right! I have certainly learned a few lessons.
1) we need to see a doctor and dietitian again to discuss this episode
2) don’t let Zac eat any ‘exotic’ fruits – whether in a whole form, as juice or even as an ingredient in a seemingly harmless ice lolly
3) always take a bottle of Piriton wherever you go
4) listen to Zac when he says he doesn’t like something/it makes him feel funny – he is probably trying to tell me something very important and not just being fussy!
So here are some photos from the holiday – because apart from this scary moment, and the vomiting episode on the way home (more on that to follow), we had a very lovely time. All I need to do now is change the photo on the front cover of this blog – it was taken in Spain two years ago and shows Zac eating an ice lolly – how ironic. Either that one didn’t have any ‘real’ fruit in it – or Zac has got worse. But I don’t suppose I will know until I meet Dr Fox again. Roll on September!