Babies, children and adults can all have allergies

When I was a child hardly anyone even doctors ever thought of allergies, nowadays, times have changed and we live in a world in which we have a greater empathy for those suffering from allergic reactions.

When I was young I suffered from a series of skin allergies.  The first to become apparent was an allergy to first aid sticking plasters (band aids as Americans call them) there wasn’t the range of so called hypoallergenic plasters available.  As a consequence every time I cut my self my mother would wrap huge amounts of bandages around my cuts.  As a rough and tumble boy and the youngest of 6 children my mother was always busy nursing my cuts and bruises.  Fortunately all my brothers and sisters knew that I was allergic to them, however, once I started school the teachers and school nurse would not accept that I could have an allergic reaction to plasters.  Every time I cut my self and the teacher or nurse would do what they thought right and seemingly a naughty child ripped it off within minutes.  That child was of course my self.   School would telephone my mother and tell her the story and my mum would promptly turn round and tell them I wasn’t being naughty I was allergic to plasters.  They never did believe my mum and certainly not me the poorly child!  Sometimes she would have to come in and take me home if I was badly cut.  How quickly would I react to a plaster?  Well after less than 5 minutes I would have a rash under and around the plaster, if school could force it to stay on half an hour the rash would be half way along my leg or arm, after an hour it would be the whole length of the limb.

I also became allergic to the metal backing plate on my first ever watch when I was a child.  Bought from an offer on the Weetabix box’s and with 6 months of pocket money saved up to buy it.  I wasn’t best pleased, nor were my parents!  I couldn’t wear the watch without some form of protection on the back to prevent skin contact.

Later on as a teenager working on my motorbikes or my dads car I found I was allergic to Swarfega hand cleaner, thankfully washing up liquid with a dose of sugar sprinkled would enable me to get my hands clean without any reaction it is still a method I use today – why change something found to work for the last 30 years!

Another allergy that started to show with products changing over the years has been to washing powder, best make sure of the one used and that it is well rinsed out afterwards if it isn’t really well rinsed then it will become irritable if I get very hot.

Possibly the most unusual skin allergy I discovered in my twenties.  Living at my parents house they retired to in the mountains of Wales what could I possibly be allergic to?  Not only that but it was only in winter not in summer?   No prizes for any readers guessing, I was allergic to a particular type of tree!  Or more precisely the sap of a particular type of tree, because the tree sap is chemically quite different in winter than summer, even in coniferous trees.   Our fields were surrounded by forestry commission land and in winter storms some would fall in to our fields.  Out with the chain saw and safety gear and in to the wood store they would go.  One of the local farmers that was also a foreman for the forestry commission laughed and kindly told me exactly what type of tree was causing the problem, it would seem it is quite common in forest workers.  He was definitely right when he said it would be in winter or summer not both.  Someone not in the medical profession with very practical experience of allergies, I am really glad I went to his farm that day to pick up extra food supplements for the sheep in our fields.  A fortnight later and I was free of the discomfort caused by my allergy to the trees, now I am more careful with any ‘green’ wood I cut up.  Life is like that you can learn from your own experiences and those of others as long as you have an open mind and are prepared to listen and learn.

The only food that never agreed with me growing up was prawns/shrimps and they can be a little dodgy to eat for anyone.  As they always made me sick I haven’t eaten them for over 40 years until recently.  I knowingly ate them from the soup and the fried rice from a local Chinese takeaway, well I’m not working at the moment so I could try them and if they made me ill it wouldn’t matter in terms of my work.  I was very pleased to find that I was not ill at all.

Now in my forties, my local doctors and staff in the health services are far more aware of allergies to different items and food stuffs, some are obviously known for being potentially lethal hence we have warnings on our foods in shops and restaurants.  Fortunately as an adult I have been far less likely to cut or injure my self and having worked as a medical engineer you really do take extra care, not because of worries of reactions to plasters, there are now ranges on offer that I do not react to but for reasons of being infected by anything that might be contaminated.

In modern times medical staff are far more aware of allergic reactions to foods and materials used in items of clothing, washing powders and the like.  Babies, particularly premature babies in NICU and SCBU care in hospitals are far less tolerant to environmental changes such as heat, cold, humidity.  Because of their diminutive size and proportionately high surface area of skin contact area to their relative body mass it is as important with such babies to become very quickly aware of any skin allergies that they may have as it is to become aware of any food allergies they may show at later stages in their development.

If whilst in hospital care or even once at home and the baby begins to show any signs allergic reaction then as responsible parents we should all act accordingly and as swiftly as possible to determine and remove the cause.

Even as your child grows and through to adulthood they may still display various allergies to metals, clothing, animal fibres or foods hopefully by that time they will be strong enough and experienced enough to be able to act accordingly and let friends and family know and be prepared for some of the most dangerous allergies. As someone who suffered from the discomfort of some basic skin allergies whilst growing up I am thankful of the responsible approach that my parents adopted.  Whilst frustrated at the lack of empathy and understanding of various adults in my early life I fully appreciate the greater understanding health care professionals have on such issues in the 21st century.  If the medics didn’t listen, study and learn from patients experience in the past our health care might never improve in the future. As responsible adults and as parents we must all help the professionals as they try and help us, their patients.  For those that are the most weak and vulnerable such as premature and poorly babies all the way through to our most senior citizens any person may show allergic reactions to items they have never been in contact with previously in their life or even develop an allergy as they get older such as ‘hay fever’.

Don’t be blasé and simply shrug your shoulders, do something to help the people in the ‘now’ and for fellow suffers in the future.

Author: Andrew Edmondson
Twenty five years experience as a engineer in various roles and still learning!  The practical joker husband of Sue of prem2pram the on line premature baby store.



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