Family highlights vital paediatric support during Allergy Awareness Week

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‘It can be really scary when you have a child with such severe allergies but when you have the knowledge, then you feel more empowered’: these are the thoughts of parent Cecily Smith Nesbitt, mum to four-old year Seren, who with the support and guidance of the Paediatric Allergy Team at the Ulster Hospital, are managing her multiple allergies at home and at school.

The aim of Allergy Awareness Week is to raise awareness of different allergies and improve public understanding of what can sometimes be a life-threatening condition.

Cecily explained how little Seren, who has allergies to milk, eggs and nuts, has been receiving such vital help and advice from the Paediatric Team since she was a baby.

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“The Health Visitor at the time suggested to me when Seren was a baby that she might be allergic to milk,” explained Cecily. “I was breastfeeding and Seren was covered in eczema from head to toe.

L-R Cecily Smith Nesbitt with daughter Seren and Lead Consultant for Paediatric Allergy Service Dr Katy McConnell. Pic credit: SEHSCTL-R Cecily Smith Nesbitt with daughter Seren and Lead Consultant for Paediatric Allergy Service Dr Katy McConnell. Pic credit: SEHSCT
L-R Cecily Smith Nesbitt with daughter Seren and Lead Consultant for Paediatric Allergy Service Dr Katy McConnell. Pic credit: SEHSCT

"As well as the milk, I remember eating a hot cross bun which didn’t have milk in it, but egg and within an hour of feeding Seren at the time she became really sick. A month into weaning Seren, I remember she had had some Weetabix and ended up in hospital and a wheat allergy was detected as well.”

Cecily described how the family was referred to the Dietitian-led Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy Clinic, (CMPA, Moo Clinic) at the Ulster Hospital and how from the offset the dietitians, “were great.”

Cecily said: “Seren had her first skin prick test when she was aged one and has been seen regularly since then.

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"The help and support at the hospital has been so important for Seren and for us as a family. It’s been fantastic to have all that advice when I’ve needed it.”

Lead Consultant for Paediatric Allergy Service Dr Katy McConnell lives with and manages a severe allergy to nuts.

Dr McConnell explained: “I completely understand the burden that allergy can impact upon, particularly for parents.

"We have a multidisciplinary service here and by educating and helping children and their parents live with allergies, it can make their lives function better.

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“Once referred to the service, we see newborn babies right up to the age of 16. Children are seen by the Nurse, as well as the Doctor and one of our lovely Dieticians. It’s an ‘all-encompassing’ service with diagnosis on the day.”

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Advanced Practice Paediatric Dietitian Caroline Smith added that she and her team are seeing a year-on-year increase in babies presenting with a cow’s milk protein allergy.

Caroline added: “A huge part of my job is education. I hear parents and people out in the community say to me that they just weren’t aware of the symptoms of food allergy. Increasing awareness will help in terms of managing both at home and outside, whether it’s day-care or in a school setting."

Paediatric Sister, Barbara Ferris said: “One of the most important parts of our role is to empower the parents whose children have an allergy or multiple allergies.

"We work to help parents make decisions and to be aware of the signs, what to look out for in terms of a reaction with the child and ultimately to help keep them safe.”