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Natasha's Allergies

If you met Natasha, you would soon be smiling. She had an enormous heart and valued love and friendship beyond everything else. She was a wonderful daughter to us and was extremely close to her younger brother Alex. 

She was a gifted artist and we have framed her beautiful artwork all around our house; she sang like an angel, was a talented figure skater; she had dreams of passing the private pilots licence to fly a gyrocopter and had already read the manual, had skydived from 12,000 feet just months before we lost her; she loved all animals and loved to ride horses; adored her pet dog Buddy who still goes up to her bedroom and waits for her to return.

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She could reduce us to fits of laughter in seconds with her hilarious antics. She was so brave and always up for a challenge, she was going to do amazing things in her life and we never doubted that she would.

The first sign of allergy was when Natasha was 12 weeks old and she suddenly developed eczema.  Our GP gave her a steroid cream to be applied to her skin over a base cream. After applying both creams, she became much worse and her face and body were soon covered in lesions that cracked and bled. It turned out that she was allergic to the lanolin in the base cream.  It was very frightening to see our baby bleeding all over her face and body.   

At 6 months old, Natasha had her first anaphylactic episode to a minuscule amount of banana.

Her reaction was immediate. Her lips swelled until they split, her body turned red and she screamed in terror and pain. We rushed her to hospital but the doctors couldn’t find a vein to inject her with adrenalin (the emergency medication for anaphylaxis) because she was so tiny and her veins miniscule.  We had to wait to see if she would live … and she did. We never held her closer than in the weeks that followed and we were soon to learn in the months that followed that this reaction to banana would not be an isolated one.

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We were concerned about weening Natasha onto dairy milk formula but we were reassured by our GP that it was highly unlikely. When given the formula milk, she finished a quarter and refused to drink anymore.  Within 5 minutes she had her second anaphylactic reaction which was as horrific as the first one. Again, we rushed her to A&E and no vein could be found to give her life saving medicine but once again she survived. 

She had eczema from 12 weeks old until her first birthday. It disappeared soon after, only to be replaced by another visit to A&E because of breathing difficulties.  The eczema was mysteriously replaced by what we would discover to be a much more frightening condition, asthma.

At 2 years old, she had her third allergic reaction to sesame seeds on a bread stick and once again at 6 years old to a contaminated shop bought cookie. She reacted immediately and we rushed her to hospital where she was given lifesaving adrenalin. 

In the early years of Natasha’s life, we were terrified of feeding her an ‘unsafe’ food.  No help or advice had been given to us; the internet then had little information that could help us so we relied entirely upon our own common sense and instincts. We fed her homemade chicken soup and rice noodles with a variety of vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner until she was 2 years old and she drank rice milk that was fortified with calcium. Then very slowly and carefully we started introducing new foods to her.  She understood the severity of her allergies from such a young age and when a new food was introduced, she would sniff it first and then we would rub a tiny amount onto the inside of her wrist and if no redness or swelling occurred, to the inside on her bottom lip.  If after 1 hour there was no itchiness or reaction, we would let her lick it. We would wait again, sometimes until the next day and then she would take a tiny nibble.

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Her asthma had a very allergic element to it. 

A well as being prone to asthma from the cold, mould and damp, she also suffered breathing difficulties when in contact with chemical smells such as bleach, air-freshener, perfume and acetone and airborne milk particles in coffee shops.  She was dosed up with Piriton between March and May every year because of spring blossom pollen.

Following an asthma attack, Natasha would often be ill for weeks at a time as her lungs tried to cope with the large amounts of mucous that would settled there. From reception until year four (5 until 9 years old) Natasha missed about 4 weeks of school every term due to illness, mainly from the after effects of asthma. 

During her early primary school years, she was bullied so at the age of nine years, we decided to move her to another school.  It is worth noting that as the bullying stopped, her asthma attacks soon halved over time.   

We realised then that her stress levels also played a part in her asthmatic episodes. 

By the time Natasha started secondary school, her asthma was continuing to improve (though not to tree pollen in spring) and she had an average of 85% school attendance.  

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As a young teenager she wanted to go out with friends to birthday celebrations, cinema trips and Thorpe Park!  We still always prepared packed lunches but in time we discovered that she could eat one dish which she loved in a well known restaurant chain. She was over the moon!

We found a few other foods that she could eat thanks to the 2014 labelling laws for prepacked foods in shops and supermarkets and Natasha felt more confident as she got older in navigating her allergic life but she never ate something new without checking with us first.  Until her fatal reaction in 2016, she hadn’t had an anaphylactic reaction for nine years.

On 17th July 2016 Natasha died from eating sesame seeds that were baked into the dough of a baguette. On that day her life ended and ours changed forever in ways we could never have imagined possible. There is truly no pain that can compare to that of losing your beloved child. She is now with God and lives on in our hearts and our memories. Everything we do, we do in her memory and for all those who suffer from allergies and asthma as she did.

Science is sure of one fact; allergic children are not born with life threatening food allergies.  They and an ever increasing number of adults become allergic and although there are many theories, science still has no idea as to why.