Conversation with my granddaughter

‘Pop pop, please may I have some tea?

‘Of course, sweetheart.’

‘And may I have it with no milk, because I want to drink it in the front room where George is.’

‘Do you want kinder tee then?’

‘No, real tea but with no milk in it.’

My grandson is allergic to milk and all of its derivatives. As you can imagine, this makes life, erm interesting for all of us as we have had to learn what, exactly, are all the derivatives of milk and all of the, sometimes unexpected, places they can be found – soap, shampoo, suntan lotions… – as well as finding milk-free products in a place like Cyprus.

It is becoming less of a problem inside the close family as the little exchange with my granddaughter illustrates. George is well in the habit of going nowhere without his bag – a knapsack containing his meds in case of a ‘reaction,’ and Tina automatically sits at the kitchen table to eat anything that might have milk in it, even a chocolate biscuit. (The kitchen table is ‘dirty’ and George knows very well he has to take extra care when eating there.) She also automatically scrubs her face and hands after eating or drinking anything at all – as do the rest of us and, incidentally, George’s classmates at school πŸ™‚ Habits can work for you, as well as against you! The problems arise with people who don’t take what we tell them seriously, or don’t think about what they tell us. My ex was in Platres, in the mountains the other day when she came across a new shop, a chocolatier run by an expat. The chocolate looked very nice and she asked the guy if he had any dairy-free chocolate. He informed her that all of his chocolate was dairy-free. She explained why she was asking – that she could kill my grandson if she got it wrong – and the guy assured her that, ‘There is no dairy in my shop, Madame!’ So, she bought some chocolates and George was very pleased to be told that they were ‘George-friendly.’ Of course, he had a reaction! Only a mild one, thankfully. The guy forgot to mention that he used milk powder in the fillings! I know it’s difficult to understand the dangers of something like this, but we are always very careful to explain exactly how dangerous it is.

I can’t help thinking about the problems he’s going to have when he gets a bit older. Imagine returning from a hot date and, before bidding a romantic goodnight to his current pash, producing a pack of wet-wipes and asking her to wipe her mouth πŸ™‚

28 thoughts on “Conversation with my granddaughter”

  1. My daughter is allergic to capsicum, bananas and various other foodstuffs – not enough to kill her but sufficiently to give her an extremely bad reaction which means a day or two off work. We are always very careful to ask which meals have capsicum when we go out to eat. It is really amazing just how many restaurants have not taken her seriously. We have finally settled on about three where we know we can rely on the food being ‘uncontaminated’.

  2. Tricky one but my daughter was diagnosed at the age of two as allergic to gluten.

    Now short term ,consumption was not likely to prove fatal but it certainly caused a serious problem for a number of years re peering at labels and outings to friends.

    Either the diagnosis was wrong or she has grown out of it, but she decided at some point to go her own way, and she has a very mild intolerance of bread, and that is it.

  3. When George was a baby, the list of things to which he was allergic was as long as your arm and included things like tomatoes, (in a Mediterranean country, for pete’s sake,) celery, most grains except corn, but, strangely, not nuts. It used to drive my daughter crazy trying to work out what she could feed him. Not strange that he is a ferocious carnivore. (Who also enjoys cucumber and carrots and spinach, just about the only vegetables he could eat as a baby.)

  4. It is rare and unfortunate if the intolerance does prove to be fatal, I agree, Bravo.

    There is a school of thought that suggests that controlled, I do mean controlled, exposure can reduce this risk, especially as the child grows older. It’s like vaccination, I suppose but not to be undertaken lightly.

  5. George has grown out of all the other allergies, but this one persists. There seems to be no treatment at the moment, though trials in the US of a drug also used to treat severe asthma are still in progress.

  6. This seems to be a an acknowledged problem these days, Bravo and I hope that there is a solution in the offing, for George’s sake.

  7. Poor little mite, people don’t take it seriously I know.
    When I had the restaurants I did an excellent trade from people with allergies, everything was made from scratch and we would make to order. Result I would get regular parties of a dozen people of which one was allergic and one bought their own oxygen via the back entrance, we built a ramp for his wheelchair. Very good business indeed.

    I too am allergic but only to drugs. It is a serious embarrassment in hospital I have red armbands from my wrists nearly to my elbow. I rarely take new medication but if I have to I sit in the Doctor’s office and take a quarter tablet, I soon know! Even worse I am totally allergic to Marijuana, seriously bad news in Wales! Keel over like a dead parrot at the first whiff also to most perfume, can’t even walk past Body Shop!

    Does the boy’s allergies extend to milk derivatives like lactose and lactic acid? If so he will have a problem that stuff is in everything. But he sounds a sensible child which helps.

  8. “Even worse I am totally allergic to Marijuana, seriously bad news in Wales! Keel over like a dead parrot at the first whiff also to most perfume, can’t even walk past Body Shop!”


  9. Well toc you have to laugh really it is so damned serious you cannot live on the edge all the time.
    I always worked on the principle that if some medic shot me up with something to which I was allergic I wouldn’t know too much about it!
    One thing, the lawyers could tell them to stuff the bill!
    It is all very well an adult choosing to live like that but a little boy is different. The epipens and a good medic alert bracelet/service and awareness by he child himself is all you can do.

    The boy was very good when he smoked weed he did it in his bedroom at the far end of the house with a wet towel under the door with the windows open. Bit of a problem in the hospice I made his father push his bed round the gardens trailing tubes and oxygen just for a joint. They had a nice compost area in which we used to park him!

    Bravo you can explain till you are blue in the face to suppliers, regrettably it is down to you pretty well every time.

  10. Christina, the problem includes all milk derivatives – hence the issues with things like soap, suntan oil etc. Jaime, he’s six and Tina is four. George is quite mature in handling the problem now – he won’t accept any food from anyone outside the immediate family. All of our multitudinous friends and relations here are well aware of his allergy, but some still come out with, ‘but there’s only a little bit of milk in it!’

    Toc, don’t worry about it πŸ™‚

  11. Bravo, something you should seriously consider, milk/cheese are a great source of calcium for children building bone. He may not be getting enough for proper bone development, if the allergy does not include calcium itself you ought to consider consulting a doctor for calcium tablets to supplement his dietary shortage.
    Brittle bones etc is not something else you need to put on him.
    He may well be suffering a shortage of vitamin D too, a simple blood test will soon tell.

  12. Christina, those are good points and I’m not sure that my daughter has considered them – though, I have to say, she has read widely about the whole business and keeps herself abreast of all of the latest research and thinking. I’ll ask her later.

  13. I doubt that it has come up as yet, it will when there is a spurt of growth in development, but there must be enough calcium in the system to take up. Better to treat it before it happens.
    Does Cyprus have such specialists? I really don’t know anything about the place.
    I have a lot of contacts at the Royal Orthopaedic Brum, if you should need a specialist bone physician let me know I’ll find a good one for you from the boy’s surgeon, (ex Mayo clinic)
    He seriously doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

  14. Sipu, neither do I!

    Amicus, short answer, yes!

    Must go to bed, good night all, bravo will check back in the morning, you have my email so can get in touch if you need anything on this, be glad to help.

  15. Amicus, Christina says she has allergies, so apparently they have been around for a long time.

  16. On a slightly more serious note, I wonder if their apparent greater occurrence is owing to the fact that people, children especially, can be treated more quickly and their parents and teachers are better informed. I would imagine that before the invention of many modern drugs, (antihistamines?) children died before they could be treated or the threat even recognised.

  17. Consider making an appointment for your grandson to see Professor Jonathan Brostoff (google him) – he is, IMHO, the world’s leading expert on allergy treatment, and has written a number of the standard textbooks on the subject. More than thirty years ago, when he and I were both a whole lot younger (thirty years in fact!) he dealt with what was a life-threatening shellfish allergy for me, and I have recommended him to loads of friends who have had varying degrees of allergy – he is absolutely toprate, and I doubt you will find anyone better in the UK. I hope he won’t be struck off for unsolicited testimonials like this, but if anyone is going to help your grandson, Jonathan may be able to…

  18. The allergy area is a minefield. A friend’s child is cow’s milk lactose intolerance and allergic to nuts. The key issue for her is getting a balanced diet in terms of getting enough good fat. A combination of goats milk and soya products helps in this: and there are some acceptable substitutes for things like ice-cream now, at least in the UK. (though harder I believe in some other countries.) I agree teaching the child and their friends is an important part of keeping on top of the problem.

    My own sensitivity is to wasp stings and we are just moving into that season now when it becomes a pain to eat outdoors. I’ve just killed three in the kitchen – am convinced we have a next somewhere near, but haven’t yet found it.

  19. A partial list of things we have to look out for:

    ammonium caseinate
    artificial butter flavour
    butter solids/fat
    calcium caseinate
    caramel colour*
    caramel flavouring*
    delactosed whey
    demineralised whey
    dried milk
    dry milk solids
    high protein flour*
    hydrolysed casein
    hydrolysed milk protein
    lactalbumin phosphate
    magnesium caseinate
    milk derivative
    milk fat
    milk protein
    milk solids
    natural flavouring*
    Opta (fat replacement)
    potassium caseinate
    rennet casein
    Simplesse (fat replacement)
    sodium caseinate
    sour cream solids
    sour milk solids
    whey protein concentrate

    It’s important to recognise the difference between lactose intolerance and milk allergy, because milk allergy can cause severe reactions. Goats’ milk and other types of milk contain the same proteins as cows’ milk and the same potential to produce a life-threatening reaction in poor old George – he can, and does, drink soy milk ans rice milk and eat soy and rice milk products.

  20. Interestingly my friends daughter is allergic (severe reaction, not just digestive tract, but urticaria etc and worsd) to cows milk products, but can have goats milk.

  21. Basically any processed food.
    One silver lining, the family must eat very well when everything must be made from scratch.
    Does your daughter make cakes using oil?

  22. Christina, yes – but that is a Cyprus thing anyway. I make pastry my Gran’s way – lard, (or Spry.) πŸ™‚ You’re right about making most things from scratch, though George can eat many processed foods also, though he doesn’t like them much!

  23. Quite right, good lad, filthy muck anyway!
    Read the ingredients and it sounds like the third world war has been declared in your guts!
    Why people should be afraid of dirty terrorist bombs when they eat them every day has always defeated me!

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