Sophie Skipp, mum and food blogger behind the family allergy blog Feed Felix Fast, shares her experiences of coping and normalising her son's egg, dairy, gluten, soya, nut, sesame and coconut allergies in their family's diet.
When my eldest son Felix was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as a six-month-old baby, our family had to change the way we ate to enjoy meals together. Sharing a meal with your family and friends helps you feel connected. When you’re little like Felix you just want to be able to tuck in to everything you see your friends enjoying. Nowadays, I’ve learnt how we can all eat together as a family, and how to encourage Felix to become interested and engaged in allergy-friendly cooking, too.
Our first taste of allergy-friendly food came seven years ago when we were weaning Felix onto purées and solids at six months. I loved feeding Felix a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and watching as his eyes bulged during his first taste of sweet banana or creamy peas.
It was his first taste of cheese that changed our family's approach to eating forever. Felix coughed violently, choked on the cheese and my baby was sick everywhere. I changed him out of the dirty clothes to discover Felix’s body was covered in hives and his face and eyes had begun to swell. It quickly became clear that my Felix was having an anaphylactic reaction to dairy.
I am forever in debt to the NHS for treating Felix so quickly, whilst referrals for allergy testing uncovered the extent of Felix’s allergies. Overnight, we had to learn how to follow a milk-, gluten-, egg-, soya-, nut-, sesame- and coconut-free diet.
Learning to live with food allergies
Seven years on from that day and I’ve found plenty of ways to share great food with Felix. Food allergies are a big deal, and anaphylaxis is terrifying. Intolerances can leave people in crippling pain for days.
I started my blog Feed Felix Fast to make sure every kid can be included at any event or celebration involving food. It means the world to us when another family goes that bit further to include Felix, and this is the message we want to spread to all parents. With easy access to great products and ideas catered to your own family and guests, cooking for those with allergies is surprisingly easy.
Outside of our home, we’ve built a little village of other parents who know what action to take if Felix does become unwell. The parents of Felix’s friends are an amazing support. They send me messages with ingredients to check which biscuits are safe, fill party bags with allergy-friendly treats and include Felix in any way they can. He really loves to feel included in every celebration.
Allergies will never stop Felix from being included - it just means we must adapt our plans occasionally. I love cooking so much that we’ll always find a way to still enjoy food despite Felix’s allergies, and working with Asda on this inclusivity campaign has made me so excited to find more, new ways to include everyone with a special diet at our table.
top tips for preventing allergy accidents
- I always prepare Felix’s food first. It means I’ve got it out of the way before I get distracted or lose concentration with the many balls I’m juggling, which might lead to cross-contamination.
- Squeezy mayo, Marmite and other sauces stop us from cross-contaminating Felix’s food with allergens. Over the years, we’ve become fanatical about using a clean teaspoon to serve foods like jam. If you’re unsure if you’ve dipped a floury spoon in the sugar or a buttery knife in the jam, it’s much better to buy a new packet. It’s so much safer to be extra cautious - particularly if you are catering for someone with a life-threatening allergy.
- If you, or a loved one, has an allergy and is eating at a party, don't be afraid of getting to a buffet first! You won’t look like you are overly keen; it’s just practical to make sure you have the maximum choice available, and nobody has had the chance to put the coleslaw spoon in the potatoes.
- Ask party hosts to hold on to packets so you can check ingredients without the embarrassment of looking through a dirty bin. If you do feel uncomfortable, it’s always fine to say ‘no thanks’ to a kind offer and bring your own food along.
- Lots of children have little individual lunchboxes at birthday parties. Find out what the planned food is at a party and provide safe food as similar as possible. If it’s presented in the same box as the other children, it will make your child feel confident and included.
- Lastly, sometimes things don’t go to plan. It’s so painful when you see a little bottom lip wobble as they get bypassed with the treat. A comforting squeeze of the shoulder and whispering a promise of safe treats later will make the disappointment less painful. Felix has done rather well in football stickers to make-up for being left out! It doesn’t happen often, but children deserve extra kindness for coping with occasional disappointment.
Check out our Inclusive Eating campaign and mission here