Jackie lives life on the edge for son
THE Sunshine Coast's Jackie Nevard wants her three-year-old son Thai to live as normal a life as possible.
But that cannot be easy when his food allergies need such constant vigilance.
The Nevards have to carry safe food for Thai everywhere they go and ensure he has no contact with foods that others may eat in front of him that could prove fatal.
At least in the foreseeable future, Thai cannot share a restaurant meal or takeaway food with his family, cannot take home the lolly bag from a birthday party, and is unable to eat a supermarket-bought biscuit offered by well-meaning friends.
The chance of him having a severe anaphylactic reaction is just too great to run the gauntlet of these activities most modern-day families take for granted.
An EpiPen is never far from Thai and even his very protective older brother, Finn, 8, has been trained to use it if necessary.
This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week - an initiative of Anaphylaxis Australia that provides public education, research and ongoing support for sufferers.
Australia has one of the highest allergic incidence rates in the developed world.
Statistics show that an estimated one-in-10 Aussie kids now have food allergies but their food monitoring, emergency treatment and safety comes down to every member of the family.
Jackie said Thai had only been diagnosed at nine months through a blood test.
As a breast-fed baby, the only early indication he gave that something may be wrong was his irregular sleeping patterns.
"He wouldn't sleep - day or night," Jackie recalled yesterday.
"He would only sleep for 10 minutes - he was so uncomfortable.
"But he had a little excema (often a sign of allergies). If he was naked, he would scratch so we didn't have him naked (very much). His skin didn't look that bad."
Thai has since been found to be allergic to nuts, dairy, egg, prawns, soy and strawberries.
The Nevards have had to learn to live with Thai's condition - just like the thousands of other Australian families who live with a food allergy sufferer.
"We've got into a routine now but wherever I go where there's other children, I have to think how much stress is going to be involved (for a possible food crisis)," Jackie confessed.
That stress is ever present with Thai at daycare.
The danger could be triggered by something as innocent as another child eating a peanut butter sandwich, not washing his hands and then touching a toy with his sticky fingers that Thai later picks up.
Thai goes to a nut-and-egg-free daycare centre and staff are very good at checking and removing banned foods, but parents still pack muesli bars that contain nuts on occasions.
"In every classroom and every daycare centre, there is going to be (at least) one child who has an allergy," Jackie said.
"It's just trying to make people aware of it."
The Town of Seaside family is determined to do its bit to educate the public about living with food allergies and to show why all of us should take responsibility to eliminate possible dangers for sufferers we come in contact with.
Jackie is tackling the difficult subject in a simple way with her fun series of books aimed at preschoolers: My Food Allergy Friends.
She is developing and self-publishing the books, illustrated by her husband Carey, which she hopes will be taken up by schools, libraries and childcare centres to help spread the awareness message to sufferers, their friends, families, carers and educators.
The first book, Thai Goes to a Birthday Party, is due for release next month. But you can pre-order copies now from her website.
"Birthday parties can be very scary for parents and upsetting for young children who are not able to eat the array of deadly foods in front of them," Jackie said in a press release about the books.
"The story tackles staying safe and alternatives for birthday cake and lollies.
"We want Thai to stay safe while living a full and normal life.
"With better awareness of food allergies in the community, we can achieve this."
FOOD ALLERGY AWARENESS WEEK
The week is an initiative of Anaphylaxis Australia. The week helps to promote and develop through education, research and ongoing support, the awareness of food allergy among Australians. This year, the campaign has as ambassadors comedian Peter Helliar, celebrity chef Alex Herbert, general practitioner and former president of the Australian Medical Association Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, and Anthony Field from The Wiggles children's group.
Food allergies have no cure, and no medication is available to prevent reactions. Avoidance of certain foods is the only way to prevent a reaction. For more information about Jackie Nevard and her books, phone 0415 4400 50, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit myfoodallergyfriends.com or find her on facebook.