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Jo and Ciara’s Story

Sharing your stories – Allergy Awareness Week 2014

Hi, my name is Jo and I am mum to Ciara. We live in Co. Down in Northern Ireland with her two brothers, Odhrán and Fionn, and her daddy, Donnacha. This is Ciara’s story:
Ciara was born on 3rd Nov 2010 weighing 8Ib 15oz. She was our second child and we were just absolutely thrilled to have a gorgeous little girl. I breastfed her exclusively for a couple of months and then tried a bottle. She didn’t like it and it seemed to give her tummy cramps. I didn’t think much of it at the time and just continued with breastfeeding. When she was 6 months I had to spend a night away with work. I left breast milk in the freezer but hubby ran out and tried her with a few ounces of formula. When I arrived home I knew immediately to look at her that something was wrong. She was bright red all over as if sun burnt and she was glassy eyed. She didn’t respond when I came through the door even though it was my first time away from her. I took off all her clothes and could see that her legs were mottled and turning black. We whisked her straight over to the out of hours doc after giving antihistamine. (I should say we had anti-histamine in the house because from about 3 months onwards Ciara had horrendous eczema all over her body. She was wet wrapped every night and had antihistamine to help with the itching. What I didn’t know at the time, and what I wish someone had pointed out, was that this was just a precursor to allergies). So then we began the trips to the doctor who referred us on to immunology which had a 14 month waiting list! Meanwhile I started to wean her onto solids at around 6 months. I tried her with some pasta and courgette a la Annabel Karmel and we ended up in A&E. She was vomiting, her eyes swelled up, her breathing was affected, she was covered in welts. The scary thing is, on reflection, that I hadn’t a clue what was happening. I had never heard of anaphylaxis. A&E gave her steroids and referred us for an outpatients appointment for testing. At this point I broke down. What was I supposed to feed her? It was our second or third time in A&E in as many weeks and it seemed like everytime I gave her anything to eat, something happened. Thankfully they admitted her and did some blood tests. One week later we discovered that she is allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, peanuts. We have since added lentils and aubergines (another trip to A&E). She was given an epi-pen, we were shown how to do CPR and we were referred to a dietician. She was put onto nutramigen milk which she didn’t like at first but very quickly got used to and her eczema cleared up. It was a crazy amount of information to deal with and I had no clue about support groups at the time.

At first, learning that she had anaphylaxis seemed like the end of the world. I convinced myself that she would die eating something and literally spent about 6 months in a panic and a daze and on the internet. Three years on we live a much more (semi-)relaxed existence. We’ve educated ourselves and Ciara (having realised very early on that our dietician was of no help). The whole family eat the same foods with the exception of her rice bread. We have tried to keep it all very calm and normal for her. At 3 1/2 we’ve discovered the importance of keeping it normal for her and not making her feel different but there is a fine line between not feeling different and staying food safe. Educating friends and family has been interesting and I’ve come to realise that they really don’t understand anaphylaxis and what it means. But then I didn’t understand it 3 and 1/2 years ago either so I’ve realised the importance of educating them as we go along. We’ve had some bumps along the way with nursery school, crèches, children’s birthday parties but I’ve learned that extra planning and making Ciara-friendly treats for the whole class goes a long way! It’s been lovely to share her story and to say that I am so proud of her. She never complains even when she is violently ill. We have our first food challenge to baked egg in a few weeks. Fingers crossed we will be able to start adding things to her diet soon. Thanks for reading her story. x


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Allergy Buddies are custom made products to alert everyone of a child’s allergy or intolerance.


Ever had an instance at a crèche, party, play-gym where someone has given your child something that made them ill? Yes me too. I’m sure like me you want to keep your child safe and that is where Allergy Buddies comes in. My little chap is so far intolerant to diary, eggs and we think citric acid as well as hayfever of every description and pet allergies. So I decided to create a brand that would allow a child’s allergy/intolerance to be easily identified by any carer, teacher and other parents and to help prevent those dreaded slips.