Thursday, December 15, 2016

Allergy Support 2016

Thank you to all the families that I have had the privilege to meet this year. It has been an exciting year with the launch of our workshop "Introduction to Managing Food Allergies" and the opportunity to provide individual counselling support for families dealing with food allergies.

Our Facebook group - Allergy Fun - Support continues to provide valued support for many of us on a regular basis. Thank you to everyone who has had input through your comments and other articles you have shared. It is terrific to have such a caring and understanding community that can readily share are joys and our heartaches.

Our book Allergy Fun continues to help teach and support our kids with food allergies. If you haven't got a copy of this yet, why not put it on your to do list for 2017. Your kids will be engaged and encouraged knowing that they are not alone.

Into the future, we hope to expand our reach through webinars and online counselling. Living in a major city is of great assistance to us as an allergy family, but I know that many people would love to have more support and have felt restricted by geographical limits. To stay in touch, sign up to receive our emails or LIKE and FOLLOW our Facebook page Allergy Fun.

We will be taking a bit of a break over Christmas but will return 20th January, 2017 with lots of energy and ideas ready to share. Take care over the Christmas season, and may you find ways to safely celebrate with family and friends, and truly treasure the gift of life we have been given.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Introduction to Managing Food Allergies

It has been a privilege to finish off 2016 by presenting our workshop "Introduction to Managing Food Allergies" to a number of parents and educators in the local community and in our local schools. I have met with parents who fear that a school or kinder would be unable to keep their child safe from life threatening food allergies. I have met educators who have to manage multiple food allergies in multiple children, some of whom are touch sensitive. I have also met professional staff who have such a desire to care for and nurture children, that it simply warms my heart. Yes, the incidence of food allergies appears to be on the rise, but the awareness and willingness of the community to learn and support those with food allergies is also on the rise.

"Introduction to Managing Food Allergies" is a way for parents and educators to look beyond the diagnosis of food allergies and find practical solutions to everyday situations. We have covered a lot of topics, but here is a summary of what you can learn in one of our sessions.
Concerning allergies, we covered:
- the difference between allergies and intolerances
- medication and how to carry it
- Action plans and other helpful forms
- cross contamination and how to check for hidden ingredients

Concerning kinder/childcare/school, we covered:
- effective anaphylaxis management policies
- analysis of risk management and procedures

Concerning the allergic child, we covered:
- how to teach our children and their friends about allergies
- how to promote resilience and confidence

And last but not least, we looked at self-care and how to successfully manage food allergies in children, every day of every week of every year. The response from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, even from those who have been managing food allergies for years already.

If you would like to book a session for your community or would like to know when our next session is being run, please send me an email at or use the contact form on this page.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Navigating Birthday Parties

Birthday Parties and the thought of upcoming Christmas parties used to be a source of great stress for us with a child with multiple food allergies. Our son was diagnosed at 9 months of age, of being at risk of anaphylaxis to 8 out of the top 9 food allergens. It basically meant he was (and more or less still is) only allowed to eat food that we have prepared for him. Although a plate of potato crisps might be safe for him, the risk of cross contamination from other hands and foods is too high. Whenever we received a party invitation, I felt the stress and anxiety rise within me. While most people are happy to be included in the party list, I felt relief when our son didn't come running to me with a precious slip of colourful paper.

Looking back, I think we attended far too many birthday parties and caused unnecessary stress on ourselves. I didn't want to miss out, nor did I want my kids to miss out. But I am also realising that our society wants to celebrate more extravagantly each year, and this extravagance feeds itself in a viscous cycle. Birthday parties look more and more like weddings, with themes and colour schemes. What are we celebrating anyway? The child or the party centre, the cake, or the fancy plates?

Birthday Parties are one aspect of life - not the be all and end all. There are some parties that are just too risky - due to the food available, due to the type of party, due to the people attending the party (sad, but true). On the other hand, there are some parties that can be manageable. If they have to miss a party, life will go on. Don't be afraid of saying NO to a party invite. If you're new to the allergy game, or new to the party scene, then start small. Each successful event will give you confidence for the next one. Overly stressful parties will give you wisdom and experience for the next invitation.

It's helpful to understand what aspects are causing the stress, and in this way work out if things can be managed safely, whether this is an issue that will pass, or whether the situation is worth the level of risk.

Things that added to that stress was that EVERYTHING had to be home made in the early days since his allergies were too many to count. As he's gotten older, we have found a number of store bought snacks that he can take to parties. Provided I have a home made cupcake in the freezer, and can manage to put together a lunch for the lunch time parties, the rest is easy. We keep a pantry stocked with small packets of potato crisps/popcorn, small packets of lollies, individually wrapped dried fruit and small packets of chocolate. I have found decorating the cupcakes very simple by using premade fondant icing. Another alternative for cupcakes is simply to squash a few of his favourite lollies on top (Mentos, gummy bears, snakes... not all at once though). I usually pack some fresh fruit too of course to have some balance of healthy in there.

Only you can make this judegement call. For us, a smaller party is better. If there are so many people there, I often think our presence is not going to make much difference to things and we will either attend for a short period only, or keep my children home. If you think about the stress load of a large party - I can handle a lot of stress for a short period. However, a party that goes for hours where I need to be in arm's reach of my two children might not be so enjoyable or manageable.


As our son has gotten older and understands more about his allergies, birthday parties are getting easier. He knows not to touch other food. He knows we always bring our own food. He knows he can sing the song, but can't touch the cake. As he's gotten older, he does ask to try things a bit more. He will ask if he can have the Frozen Fanta/Coke. He will ask if he can try any of the lollies in the lolly bag. Our general rule is if it doesn't have an, ingredient list, it is a NO. Even if he has eaten it before - no label, means it's NOT SAFE to eat. I have begun approaching some establishments to find out more information about certain foods, but I make careful choices based on the likelihood of cross contamination. Nothing would spoil a party like having to call an ambulance - so we balance out the risk, and choose to be very very safe. This means he might not get to eat all he wants, but he will be able to enjoy the time with his friends.

If your child has food allergies, they are different. Our children need to learn that they are different, but that they are also very similar in other ways. This is a page out of our book Allergy Fun. Teaching our children about their specific allergies is so important. Helping them understand the situation and the risks, helps them to accept their differences. Although we talk a lot about allergies in our family, we also talk a lot about... Pokemon and Monster Trucks (at the moment). We also spend a lot of time talking about other important aspects of life like kindness, generosity, honesty, joy... you get the idea. As parents, we need to be wise and sensitive about how many parties we attend where our children really are different. I don't feel it is fair on a child to feel they are the odd one out every weekend, let alone several times in one weekend. Limit the number of parties, depending on how your child copes with feeling different, and add in other events (like plays in the park, swims at the pool, rides on the bike etc) to show them just how great their life is.

Here are some more helpful tips:
- We always bring our own food and drink. We don't try to make it super healthy, but we do try and have a bit of a mix to even out the sugar overlad. It's not fair to expect your child to eat carrot sticks when everyone else is eating chocolate.
- I always have a few extra treats in my bag.
- Bring wipes and extra wipes - be generous in handing these around
- Our son has to sit when eating - no running around

If you have found these tips helpful, there will be even more practical information shared on how to manage food allergies in our workshop being hosted by Upwey South Primary School, on 10th Nov. Click here to find out more details.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Introduction to Managing Food Allergies - Upwey South Primary School

We are pleased to announce another workshop, hosted by Upwey South Primary School.
Please see the flyer for details and comment below for any questions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Introduction to Managing Food Allergies for Children and Families

If your child has been recently diagnosed with a food allergy, or you are feeling overwhelmed by a new stage in allergy management, please register your interest for this presentation being held in Melbourne.

Doctors and specialists are great at diagnosing and prescribing medication for the allergies we have. However, when our son was first diagnosed with multiple food allergies, including anaphylaxis, there was little support for the every day challenges we would encounter. Over the years we have gathered plenty of information, talked to many many other allergy families, and of course we have done the hard yards of learning things as we go.

It is my hope, to equip and enable parents who are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of food allergies.

By providing practical information and emotional support, we can enable each other to enjoy the fullness of life again, albeit in a slightly different manner. Please register your interest via email or phone. If you are not able to attend this specific date, please feel free to contact us for upcoming events and opportunities.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Anzac Day slice - with coconut oil, Milk Free, Egg Free, Nut Free and Soy Free

The reason I've used coconut oil is because one child can't have dairy, the other still can't tolerate Nuttelex (vegetable oil mix) or Copha (contains soy) so coconut oil is the happy middle. However, the mixture was too crumbly to make into a cookie, so a slice seemed like a good idea. I pressed it into the tin using a fork. This seemed to create the perfect amount of pressure - not too crumbly, but not too dense either. Yay!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Multicultural Allergy Awareness

Multicultural Allergy awareness is crucial for the lives of our little ones. Here is a message from one of our Allergy Mums - PLEASE share this message for others to read on Facebook, Pinterest... anywhere and everywhere you can.

This is just a request to spread the word about anaphylaxis (life threatening allergies). Yesterday my 2 year old son was in hospital for an anaphylactic reaction after another mum gave him a biscuit. I needed to administer his epipen and call an ambulance as his legs stopped working, he vomited and developed hives. The epipen did it's job as he could still breath.
The other mum didn't speak English so there was a language barrier there. I was sitting right there when I saw her offer it to him. I said 'no thanks, he has allergies'. It turns out she had already offered him one and he took it and ate it (he's 2) but I didn't see because his back was towards me; I was responding to the second offer....
I'm not blaming that other mum as the onus was on me to keep an eye on him - I guess I dropped the ball there.
I would encourage people to spread the word, especially to translate this to their non English speaking family and friends. It's a huge cultural thing to share food and it's an easy and generous thing to do without knowing about anaphylaxis.
I know allergies are on the rise and that some people may find other kids/people with allergies an inconvenience to their lunchbox and eating experience. I have attached a picture of this inconvenience, who also happens to be the light of my life.
Share toys, not food.
Allergy mum

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Allergy Education Presentations

If you are looking for presentations suitable for a school environment, here are a few I have found.

All of them are informative, but I think my favourite would be from FAACT, since they have tailored them for different age groups.

I hope you find these helpful - LIKE our Facebook page to keep up to date with everything.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How to make a report after an allergic reaction

Here is a great flow chart of what to do and how to report an allergic reaction to prepackaged food or to food prepared from a food service provider. This is most relevant for Australia.

If you would like to receive helpful information like this that makes life as an allergy parent better, Subscribe to Allergy Fun or LIKE us on Facebook.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Food Allergy Video - most suitable for 10 to 14 year olds.

Here is a fantastic new video that is perfect for showing to children with allergies, their friends and classmates.

It covers crucial issues in a tactful, thoughtful and insightful manner.

Topics include:
- Epipens and emergency medications
- Educating your friends about your food allergies
- Going out to eat with friends
- Sharing food at school
- Cross contamination of food

All done in a manner that isn't scary, but gives real understanding into the life of a teen with food allergies.

Please SHARE this video with your family, your school and your community, made by

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to make beautiful Easter Eggs - what a Hack!

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Allergy free and Non food ideas for Easter Egg Hunts

Easter is coming up... and what is normally a time for celebration and a bit of fun, becomes a time when allergy parents have to put on their thinking hats, pre-empt situations at school, at church, and even at the shops. How you choose to celebrate, or not celebrate will make a difference to your child, and your family. The way you explain things to your child will also make a difference to how they view their food allergies.

Allergy Education

Last year, I did an Easter egg hunt at my in-laws, with little clues for where to find the next egg. I filled plastic eggs with small lollies, snacks and little chicks, and of course ended with the finale egg. My 3 year old actually remembers it from last year and has been asking when we can do it again. The best part of last year for my older son was the food trials we had to do leading up to Easter. Every day, he ate increasing amounts of a large Easter Egg, to ensure that Easter Sunday would not end up in hospital. We can sometimes find a very bright side to allergies ;-)
Easter Egg hunts can be fraught with danger if other children are involved. On some occasions when other children are searching for normal chocolate eggs, I've filled plastic eggs with special treats or stickers, and put say a name sticker or some other special sticker on them. (This also allows me to know the eggs have not been open by someone else and act like a safety seal). Then I tell my child they are only allowed to pick up their special eggs with their sticker, since the other ones would make them sick. At a young age, I would walk with them, and direct them to the right locations, so they don't accidentally pick up the wrong eggs. I would point out the wrong egg occasionally, and explain, oh, that egg is for other children, let's keep looking for your eggs. It can still be fun for them... but it really depends how big and controlled it is. If there are too many people, I would probably not choose not to attend that Easter Egg hunt. If it's just a few friends, then it is more manageable.

Non-Food Easter Egg Hunt

Organising a non-food Easter Egg hunt would be a great way to educate others about how to include, and not exclude, children with food allergies. Here are some great ideas for an Easter Egg hunt, that don't involve food at all - Non-food Easter Egg Hunt. I love the puzzle pieces one... but imagine what would happen if you didn't manage to find all the pieces!?

And what about Glow in the Dark Easter eggs?? Simple, but clever! 

Allergy Friendly Easter Eggs

Here's another idea for making Easter Egg icypoles. Cute!

And one last one... Rainbow Jelly eggs anyone?

It seems alternatives to the traditional chocolate Easter Egg hunt are only limited by your imagination, and perhaps personal energy levels.

Have a safe Easter everyone, and don't forget to look for the real meaning behind Easter.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Food Allergy Anxiety

As a parent of children with multiple allergies, I am all too familiar with the feelings of fear and anxiety that come soon after an allergy diagnosis. The doctors can be great in providing you with emergency medication, and perhaps some advice about how to manage the allergies, but few provide any ongoing support that may be needed for the emotional ups and downs that come with it. Actually, I'm not sure I know of any doctors that have provided that!
I have wanted to write about the anxiety that comes along with food allergies for some time now, but it has been hard to pinpoint exactly which "angle" I would take. The DSM 5 definition of anxiety (the book psychologists use to diagnose formal anxiety disorder) includes the point that the fear is "unreasonable or excessive". For someone who fears spiders, their fear is excessive, considering the danger most spiders pose in day to day life. However, if you fall into a pit of dangerous spiders, then that fear is completely reasonable and will cause you to climb out to safety as soon as possible. Is it reasonable to fear for your children when they are surrounded by substances that can threaten their life, but seem benign to everyone else? The answer is yes, the fear is reasonable and not excessive. In this way, the traditional way of dealing with anxiety is not very helpful. You can't just use positive thought to make that fear go away. Fear in the case of life threatening allergies is reasonable, and can actually help to keep you and your loved ones safe.

In our Facebook Allergy Fun - Support group, one parent asks, "if the phone rings, and it is childcare, or the grandparents, I immediately jump to the worst conclusion. Is this bad?"

Considering the situation, it is reasonable to fear that an allergic reaction has taken place. If we try and convince ourselves that the phone call is actually about where did we put the child's hat, then we may choose not to respond to the call straight away. If we panic and lose our ability to drive or think clearly, then the situation is made worse. What is a reasonable response? Yes, our heart rates may go up for a few minutes as we make the return call and find out more information. If there is no risk, then we need to be able to return to a calm state relatively quickly. How? Be thankful! For caregivers, it can be helpful if they leave a message that immediately alleviates our fear. As a school counsellor, I would often leave a message that started with, "Hi it's Grace, the school counsellor. There is nothing urgent, you child is fine, but it would be great if you could call me back when you have a moment."

So reasonable fear is helpful, but when the fear is overwhelming or crippling, then we need to look at it more closely.

Let's break it down.

What fears are there for today?

What fears are there for this week? What fears are there for the future... for next year... for 5 years' time... for 10 years' time?

Sometimes, our fears can snow ball and it can be helpful to separate what fear is helpful today, and what fears are for the future, and just too tiring to carry everyday. Truly... "Each day has enough trouble of its own" Matthew 6:34. Allergy parents need to plan a lot more than other parents - we plan food, doctors appointments, medication and we plan all the extra forms that comes with having a child with allergies. By all means plan, but we cannot live our day to day life in fear of what lies beyond this moment we are living.

Take time out away from allergies - maybe 5 minutes, preferably longer, and more regularly.

Don't read about allergies everyday. Facebook and the internet in general are a great tool for bringing together communities, especially in the allergy world, but anytime there is a food recall, or a death due to food allergies, we hear about it. This can skew our perspective and feed our fears. Be informed, but regulate what you read or think about.

Read other things - inspirational things.
Look at beautiful things - no body was every allergic to a rainbow!
Smell lovely things.
Touch things (or people) that bring you warmth, security and comfort.
Think on good things - think on amazing things, and count your blessings, whatever they may be.
Try and find time away from your burdens - time with your spouse, with friends to rejuvenate yourself.
Physical activity - it is important to let out some of our stress that we hold in our body. Whatever helps you - a walk, a run, a jump or a ride... just do it!

Find a supportive community - spouse, extended family, friends, online support, professional help. 

There are multitudes of online support groups available now on Facebook. You can find a group that is specific to the allergies you are dealing with, or a group that is more local and can help you find the right products and services you need. Pinterest has lots of recipes available. We tend to look for Paleo, or Nut free Paleo. Vegan recipes can also be helpful.

I invite you to join our Facebook group - Allergy Fun - Support.

If you are not approved within a few days, please send me a message. I try and block anyone who might just be sending spam through. It has been a wonderful and supportive group over the last few years, so we would love for other allergy families to join.

Never be ashamed to seek professional help. Life with allergies is not a path that we planned to travel and sometimes those around us just aren't able to support us enough... or maybe they are having trouble too.

Is there more you would like to know?

If you have a specific topic you would like to discuss, please send me a message. I would love to hear from you. This is just the first of many posts about how we can all live life to the full while managing life threatening food allergies.

Do you have a child with food allergies? Find out more about how to help their social and emotional development, so that they aren't crippled with anxiety themselves by checking out our Allergy Education page or enquire about a personal consultation via email: