Patient stories

Allergy patient Emilia

Tucking into some jelly should have been the cherry on top for Emilia after a big weekend of third birthday celebrations.

But after eating what was thought to be dairy free jelly, Emilia who had just enjoyed her Frozen themed birthday party the day before, had a severe allergic reaction.

Emilia birthday party

“We were eating the birthday party leftovers the next day when Emilia started to cough uncontrollably and break out in hives after eating jelly,” mum Vivienne Lai said.

“We gave her antihistamines, but it only brought the swelling down in her face briefly. Panic started to set in, so we decided to use the EpiPen for the first time and called an ambulance.”

Emilia’s face swelled up during an allergic reaction the day after her party

Image: Emilia’s face swelled up during an allergic reaction the day after her party.

Emilia was treated at hospital and discharged four hours later.

Vivienne said having a daughter with multiple allergies (cow’s milk, peanut, eggs, cashews and pistachios) meant the family had to be hypervigilant around food.

Emilia was first diagnosed with a cow’s milk allergy at 10 months after having a reaction to yogurt.

Emilia in hospital

Image: Emilia was taken to hospital to help bring the allergic reaction under control.

“She initially was able to tolerate these foods, so it was a huge shock when the allergy test came back positive for so many different allergens,” Vivienne said.

“We try our best to avoid the allergens in places like restaurants and daycare and follow an allergy action plan, but Emilia still has reactions from time to time.”

In her first six months back at work after having Emilia, who was then aged one, Vivienne said she received frequent calls from the daycare centre.

“Going back to work after having a baby and starting a new job as well, was very overwhelming,” she said. But then to get regular calls from the daycare centre made it all the more stressful.

“It was anxiety-inducing for us and the staff who were trying to work out what was trigging the allergic reactions.

“We always have to worry because even if the food label or menu says no traces of a certain food it’s not always accurate.”

Vivienne said new Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) research that found how changes in antibody levels over time could predict which children were likely to outgrow their peanut allergy was a significant development.

Emilia with her mum Vivienne, dad Viet and dog Atlas

Image: Emilia with her mum Vivienne, dad Viet and dog Atlas, follows an allergy action plan but still has allergic reactions occasionally.

“The finding gives families like ours some certainty to the future,” she said. Even if a blood test showed Emilia wasn’t to outgrow her peanut allergy at least it gives us a plan forward, knowing this is going to be a lifelong challenge and we will need to manage her diet closely.”

Learn more about MCRI’S food allergy research.

child in hospital

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