Allergy Supermum Kerry Azhar, 28, from Milton Keynes, runs support groups for families with food allergic children.
The mum of two has a passion for making sure parents don’t feel isolated when dealing with their child’s allergies.
Kerry’s youngest child, Amirah, has severe allergies to a variety of foods, including milk, eggs, nuts, sesame and sunflower seed.
Speaking about what made her set up the support groups, Kerry says:
“From my own experience, the early stages of allergy diagnosis can be quite frustrating. Before I set the groups up, there was no support network for allergy sufferers in Milton Keynes, but there are plenty of parents dealing with these severe conditions (allergies, eczema, asthma and anaphylaxis) who can never find anyone to listen to them.
“Building a support network will help Amirah too. She won’t feel different because she’ll grow up with children going through the same things.”
Kerry runs two support groups, one for parents and under 5s and another in conjunction with the Anaphylaxis Campaign – a leading UK charity raising awareness and supporting people with severe allergies.
“People come to the meetings and it’s like talking to an old friend. They offload their story and it’s just amazing to hear from someone you’ve never met. I’d recommend setting one up if you don’t have one in your local area.
“We help with peer support, recipe ideas, what questions to ask and information to provide the schools. We can also point people in the right direction if they’re struggling to get their child diagnosed.”
The Long Wait to Diagnosis
It took 12 months before Amirah was diagnosed with allergies. Her first taste of solid food left her with a nasty reaction and a week in hospital.
“She’d have lots of different reactions like acute eczema flair ups. Before diagnosis she’d eat something then go all puffy and start scratching before falling asleep at the dinner table. It wasn’t until we were referred to an allergy clinic that we discovered these were severe allergic reactions,” says Kerry.
“We were at a restaurant once and she tried a bit of my steak and immediately spat it out and was covered in hives. Looking back, the only thing we could think of was that it had been cross-contaminated with sesame oil. She’s also eaten things and been violently sick, which was horrible for her.”
Don’t Suffer in Silence
Kerry doesn’t want other parents to suffer the loneliness she went through during the battle to diagnosis.
Making sure your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction when you’re not certain what their allergies are can be terrifying, so it’s important to reach out for support.
“The year before Amirah’s diagnosis was horrendous. It affects your family life, friendships and finances, and was an upsetting time for both Amirah and my son Stanley.”
The Changing Nature of Children’s Allergies
Kerry feels the most challenging thing about having a child with allergies is the changing nature of the condition.
“How the process changes is probably the hardest thing. I often have a lot of anxiety about how her life will be as she grows up. Whether it’s starting school or convincing her to carry around an EpiPen when she’s a teenager.”
“I like to know Amirah has something that can advocate for her when I’m not around,” says Kerry.
“We have a card with all her allergies on. She has a number of allergies so I never thought that engraved medical jewellery would be suitable, but I saw your information strip wristbands and thought they would be ideal, so I’ll definitely look into getting one.
“You never know what’s around the corner. For me, it’s important that she gets used to wearing something like this.”
Kerry’s Allergy Support Groups Meetings
Anaphylaxis Campaign Support Group
2 Burners Lane
Contact: 01908 263033 to find out when the next meeting is.