Zac has had croup every winter since he was 2. The first bout was horrendous and required hospital treatment. After that we were told how to treat him at home and how best to manage his allergies during Autumn and Winter. We bought a steamer for his bedroom and whenever he had a cold we switched it on in anticipation of the midnight bark. His blue inhaler helped too, along with regular doses of Calpol and keeping him upright.
With each bout we got better at treating it and each episode was less severe than the one before. However, he is still prone to bad coughs and sore throats, at any time of year, and we are always told that this is just a side effect of his asthma and inhaled allergies. Happily, even they have started to improve.
Last week, we had our second private consultation with Dr Adam Fox. We first met him almost a year ago, when after years of poor treatment from local GPs and hospitals, I decided we would have to pay for it ourselves, if we were to get Zac in front of a specialist. The first appointment was a success and gave us a greater understanding of what was causing Zac’s various symptoms, but because tests were need Dr Fox wrote to our local hospital and GP and suggested they are managed through the NHS – to save us money, and because they should have accepted him as a patient and run these tests in the first place.
After several NHS appointments and several rounds of blood tests we were pleased that all of Zac tested negative to all of the allergens we had identified as troublesome and this looked like it was confirming Dr Fox’s hunch that Zac has non-IgE mediated allergies, but nonetheless should keep to his restricted diet and take anti-histamine twice daily, with a view to looking at some challenges in the months and years ahead.
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.
Last year Zac had a horrible spot on his elbow that turned into a rash with an erupting abscess at the epicentre. The first GP who saw it said it was nothing. A few days later when it was oozing, another GP decided it did need anti-biotics and the pus needed to be squeezed out. She did it while I held him and it is a memory that still haunts me. The doctor went pale as she did it and both of us went temporarily deaf from the ear piercing screams of my brave little hero.
Ever since then we have always been very vigilant at keeping an eye on any ‘weird’ skin stuff. He did have one other very nasty rash that was diagnosed as eczema but until last week, his skin has been pretty good. But then a week or two ago Zac had a few ‘bad nights’. Lots of fidgeting and getting up in the night, itchy, very sweaty and his tummy seemed very bloated. These were all problems that were part of every day life until we started him on antihistamine twice a day. Because he has been so well I foolishly started to think perhaps he was growing out of his condition and so I became less vigilant with the medicine. I don’t like pumping him full of drugs every day so perhaps was subconsciously challenging him. BIG mistake.
In this house, you can always tell when it is going to be a ‘bad hay fever’ day. First of all there is stereophonic snoring, courtesy of my grass pollen allergic husband and my intolerant child. It is enough to bring the plaster down from the ceiling. Last summer, Sophia came wandering into our room in the middle of the night and said she couldn’t sleep because she could hear tigers!
The other sign is that despite all the windows being tightly closed – the snoring turns to sniffing and snorting by about 5am and by 6am the sneezing attacks start. My husband is a hay fever expert, having lived with it every summer of his life. He tells me it is always worse first thing in the morning, when the pollen rises and in the early evening when the pollen comes down! In June our windows are always closed but somehow it permeates the double glazing! Probably need to get them looked at!
Windy days are also very bad and today is a very windy day and when we got to the school playground this morning, I could see we were in good company. Rows and rows of Mums in sunglasses. It wasn’t even that sunny. I know we can be a vain old bunch but just for once they were as much for function as for fashion. Clearly I am not the only one who has been told that big wraparound sunglasses are a good defence on the worst days as they act as a barrier – and in my case, hide the fact that my eye make-up is being washed away rapidly by the very itchy tears.
Yesterday was a big day. Zac had his follow up appointment with the allergy specialist to discuss his blood test results. He also had an appointment with the dietician. I am happy to report it all went well.
Zac was very anxious going in for the first appointment and when we walked past the room where he’d had the blood test last time, he pointed it out and shuddered! When the bloods were taken (over 3 months ago) he was extremely traumatised. He had to have 4 vials of blood taken, from each arm. They had put numbing cream and a plasters over both elbows to prepare the skin – but perhaps unsurprisingly, Zac had an ‘allergic’ reaction to those and looked like he had been branded with a hot iron when they removed them. Rather than numbing his skin it was ‘on fire’ and he screamed the place down.
Anyway, yesterday we saw the dietician first and she was lovely. He cried when he first entered her room but she had a lovely manner and soon assured him that she wouldn’t hurt him. He’d had his height and weight checked on arrival and she said that they were perfect and she could see he was thriving. We had a discussion about his current diet etc and she confirmed that his anxieties about foods are normal and it is ok for me to ‘sneak’ foods in with whizzed up pasta sauces etc, as it is crucial we get the good stuff in him, by any means.