Sunday, November 11, 2012

Respecting allergies

Sometimes your kids are so much smarter than you give them credit for.

In my job, I am lucky enough to receive hundreds of books (mainly kids’ books) to review. This means that I am fairly picky when it comes to children’s books and I thought I could have a pretty good guess at which ones my kids would like, love and which they would want to read over and over again. 

Recently I have been stumped by my daughter’s choice of regular reader. She has chosen a nicely illustrated book about food allergies. The story is simple and the message is clear. It is the story of a 2 year old boy with severe food allergies who goes to a party. For those of you who read my posts regularly you will know my daughter has type 1 diabetes, but this does not stop her from being able to eat any foods. After reading the book for about the 25th time, I asked her why she liked it. She explained to me that she loves how Thai (the boy in the book) doesn’t have to miss out on anything at the party (his mum has pre-prepared everything that is needed) and that because everyone looks out for him he can be normal too. My daughter is only 3 years old. 

This had me reflecting on how poor I can be about respecting food allergies. On a recent visit to our hospital for my daughter’s quarterly review I asked her if she wanted a peanut butter sandwich that day (as I always take a complete day of meals to save any issues with carb counting or lack of healthy choices at the hospital). She didn’t want peanut butter, but it didn’t occur to me until I got home that night and was on the internet that I could have put children’s lives at risk. Another mother who had been at the hospital that day complained on Facebook about the types of foods parents had with their kids, and only then did I realise that I could have been endangering any number of kids.

Since then I have been making more of an effort to try and understand more about intolerances and allergies, but boy it is confusing and there is so much conflicting (and frankly, in some cases patronising for those with allergies) information.

So for those parents out there with kids with food allergies, I would love to hear your story. How can I and other parents help to make the lives of your kids easier? What would you like us to do or not do? And what would you like us not to say to you or your kids?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

There is no shame: know the symptoms

Tonight I am sitting at my computer waiting for news about the life of a little 7 year old Australian girl I have never met. This little girl was diagnosed yesterday with type 1 diabetes. What makes this story so heartbreaking is that she was not diagnosed until it was possibly too late. It appears that she visited her doctor four times over the past few weeks and her mother was told she had a virus and a UTI. All that needed to be done was for her GP to give her a blood glucose test. Whilst this is not a conclusive diagnosis, it would have shown her levels were high and she could have been treated before her blood essentially turned to acid and her body started to shut down. 

The diabetes community is always rocked when we hear stories like this. We now know what to look out for and know how easy the symptoms are to miss. We also know how little money is available to promote the symptoms of this chronic illness and how much confusion there is in the community between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Tonight I am asking you to please try and remember the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Because of the common confusion between type 1 and type 2, I believe that parents may be loath to push with the doctor.  There is a degree of shame which is rained down on parents post diagnosis by those that do not understand that there is nothing – NOTHING that can be done to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes. No diet, no exercise, no God (and certainly no herbs). Nothing will change the diagnosis.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms can include: extreme thirst;  constant hunger; sudden weight loss; frequent urination; blurred vision; nausea; vomiting; extreme tiredness; infections. If you think you or someone you know has these type 1 diabetes symptoms, call a doctor immediately, and drink fluids WITHOUT SUGAR to prevent dehydration and DO NOT be afraid to ask for a blood glucose test. It will only take a few seconds and could save a life.

I was very lucky with my daughter. She was diagnosed at 11 months of age. As she was still being breastfed and was so young, it took three emergency doctors to diagnose her, and while her life was in the balance for a few hours, she pulled through and is now a happy and healthy 3 (almost 4 as she will tell you) year old. With type 1 diabetes you never truly know the road ahead. Any night could be an all-nighter, with blood tests every hour. But at least you know. 

For more information about type 1 diabetes visit  or about type 1 and type 2 diabetes visit
For more information on our diagnosis click here or here.