Gunnedah mum talks food allergy awareness

This week (May 14-20) is Food Allergy Awareness Week and Gunnedah mum Heidi Mainey highlights the importance of allergy education.

Joe and Heidi Mainey’s six-year-old son Nick was diagnosed with a number of allergies four years ago.

“He was diagnosed at two-and-a-half but we had issues before that and didn’t know what it was from as we hadn’t fed him peanut butter,” Heidi said.

A number of incidents occurred before Nick was referred to an allergy specialist.

“Before he was diagnosed, he ate a meringue at a friends and within minutes he felt sick and started vomiting, and then his face became swollen and he developed welts. We started to piece together that it could be the egg,” Heidi said.

“Cross-contamination can be an issue too – he ate some garlic bread I had bought which must have been processed in the same place as nuts.”

Nick went through a series of skin prick tests which revealed he was anaphylactic to bees, peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. In May 2016, he participated in a cooked egg challenge at John Hunter hospital.

“It was to see if we could slowly introduce egg into his diet. He passed, so he can now eat egg. He has also grown out of the tree nut allergy,” Heidi said.

She said awareness is the key.

“Nick takes epipens everywhere, school and bus, or to whoever is looking after him. Our family, friends and his siblings all know what to do if he suffers any reactions. He knows what he can’t have but some things may have nuts in it and he might not know. He wears wristbands to say he is allergic and to use an epipen in case of emergency. It’s a huge learning curve,” Heidi said.

The Mainey home is nut-free but it is nearly impossible for schools to be nut-free zones.

“There are so many food allergies out there and it would be impossible to just eliminate nuts. It’s about educating children on not sharing food and washing their hands after they eat.”

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia said food allergies now affect one in 10 infants.