WHEN a café messed up an order for a soy babycino, making it with cow's milk instead, little Aya Clements needed four rounds of adrenalin and a five hour stay in hospital.
"The first round got us into the ambulance; the second round was given as soon as they shut the door. And once we got to the hospital the doctors said, 'We've given her so much adrenaline we'll have to monitor her for possible heart attack'," mum Glenda Clements told Kidspot.
"And when my husband forgot to get a soy cappuccino and planted a kiss on Aya's cheek, a perfect kiss-shaped welt immediately appeared."
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'She was a miserable baby'
Glenda's sister-in-law, who's a midwife, was first to notice something was wrong. An unsettled baby who screamed and screamed after every feed, little Aya was also covered in eczema.
"She was a miserable baby … and one day my sister-in-law said to me, 'this is not normal, you need to get her checked out'," said Glenda.
Sure enough a trip to the family GP, quickly followed by a consultation with an immunologist, confirmed that at just four months old, little Aya was not only dairy intolerant, but had a peanut and egg allergy as well.
"We quickly went from a delusional world of 'no allergies' to watching EVERYTHING," said Glenda.
"We were just lucky she was not soy intolerant as well. Because that's in, well, everything."
First step: An exclusion diet
Aya was a 'small, 10th percentile baby' and Glenda was 'determined' to breastfeed as long as possible; luckily within a week of going on an exclusion diet, things started changing for the better.
"I spent 16 months living off avocado, bacon and sourdough … Nothing more motivating for a diet than a child not screaming," laughed Glenda who admits it was the 'little things' that made her exclusion diet a challenge.
"White wine is filtered with a dairy product, and red wine is filtered using eggs. But because they are filtered and not 'an ingredient' companies don't have to list it on the label," said Glenda.
Unfortunately for kids like Aya, the repercussions of this lack of information, are very real.
"I had a glass of red wine at a dinner once and Aya vomited on me for four days. I was wracking my brain trying to work out what it was that I'd eaten!"
'I'm really quick at checking products'
Aya and the Clements family have learnt to live with the impact her allergies have on everyday life.
"I have become very, very quick at checking products fast, and more than once. Just recently we bought some Tip Top bread without thinking, as they are normally fine, with no traces of dairy. But this new bread apparently did, as soon as Aya tried it we knew," said Glenda.
Glenda's also learnt to be super careful at play dates and park dates.
"Everybody knows not to turn up with a peanut butter sandwich at the park, but nobody thinks about not bringing an ice cream or yoghurt," she said.
'We tend to stick to our local area'
The family have been grateful for the support of their local community.
"Where we live our local restaurants are very supportive - and because of Aya's allergies we tend to stick to our local area. The pizza shop makes her cheese-free pizzas with a vegan base. And the local café are great at re-washing jugs to remove traces of dairy, and they regularly make us dairy/egg free cake and porridge with soy milk."
They've also started exposing Aya to some of her allergic foods
Aya will be three in March and Glenda says regular exposure, advised by their GP and in a controlled environment, means she's now safely eating peanuts.
"We expose her to peanuts about once a month and she's fine in terms of reactions, but anyone who says foods don't affect kids' behaviour are wrong! She gets into a fiery temper, her skin goes red and she has no tolerance for anything. We do it once a month so it helps her, but when we do I say to daycare, 'Sorry, it's peanut week. Bye!'"
Glenda's top tips for other dairy-free families
- Get your child tested as soon as you're concerned: Your immunologist will become your best friend.
- Find a great GP - you need someone who actually 'sees' what's happening. Some doctors will brush you off and say things like, 'they're just being a baby'. But a great GP will keep looking for answers.
- Go back to basics and cook from scratch.
- When you're out at a cafe or restaurant, just ask the chef what you can have and don't worry about reading the whole menu.
- And take your Nuttelex with you when you go out for breakfast as no cafe will have dairy-free margarine.
Are you a dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free or soy-free family? What tips would you give to mums just starting to tackle this?
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