Normally our hospital challenge days go really well; but this week not so!I have learnt a few things the hard way, like when our trains were all screwed up and it took an hour longer than normal to get to the hospital. This week I learnt something new – ALWAYS take a spare set of clothes for your child, no matter how old they are!
Aars vommed pretty violently all over himself covering his T-shirt and jeans and I didn’t have any spare clothes for him.
So here is my hospital challenge day checklist, especially if you think it is going to be a challenge – like white fish and chickpeas were for us!
- Any food the hospital has asked you to provide for the food challenge
- A promise of a reward at the end of the day/weekend if they make it through the challenge
- Scrummy snacks to enjoy after completing each part of the challenge – as a reward – but NOT too filling!
- Food you know your child likes, to hide the taste of the challenge food. We tend to use flat bread and tomato ketchup and need to do it bit by bit – not a huge sarnie, but in bite-sized bits with a bit of the challenge food (e.g. 1 chickpea) wrapped in a tiny piece of flatbread with a drop of ketchup on. Otherwise Aars just eats the bread from around the challenge food. The most bizarre disguise we saw was when a child absolutely would not try a prawn. Her mum popped down to M&S bought some chocolate profiteroles which she then hid the prawns in! The daughter happily wolfed them down! Whatever works!
- Water to help get the new food down
- Something to distract your child and calm them while they eat the challenge food – relaxing music on your iPod WITH headphones is a good one.
- A good book/magazine/games whilst they wait between the challenge stages otherwise they are gonna get bored – it’s a looooong day (hospital challenge days & allergy clinics are the only time Aars has unlimited screen time)
- A spare set of clothes incase they puke 🙁
- Wet-wipes to clean up as much of the mess as possible
- Plastic bag for puked clothes to go in
I think it’s important that you appear calm and confident too! Leave lots of time for travel so that you are not stressed about getting there on time. It is a big mental shift for your child to try a food that historically has made them very ill and so it’s vital as parents to be (or seem) relaxed, affirming and encouraging. I have to say that I didn’t help the situation this time at the challenge day as I was pretty shocked by the amount of whole chickpeas Aars was expected to eat at the final stage!
We have to travel a long way to get to the hospital, it takes 2 hours each way IF all the trains are running on time… so even if it all goes well it’s a long and tiring day. Thus for all the challenge days we had during term time last year (and there were many) – we ensured that they were on a Friday so he would be able to relax the next day. Because we were going to hospital for challenge days pretty much every Friday in the Autumn term, his school provided us with all his work for the day. We did most of it on the train journey in, and at the very start of his appointment, when the food is on his lip and the tiny amount of the first oral challenge. After that he was able to enjoy his iPad and tunes.
The food challenge days are really worth enduring! They have enabled us to introduce so many foods into Aars diet as he has been losing others due to the Silver Birch Pollen cross-reactions. Also we have been really blessed by the lovely team at the Royal Free who know the children really well and genuinely care about them. I will never forget the shock/wonder/awe I felt when Aars had his first ever food challenge less than a year ago. It was baked milk (a nibble of a malted milk biscuit) and he was fine!!!! I could NOT believe it! It was incredible – so there are really lovely and good experiences in there too.
Peace to you as you journey this path of progress with your child avoiding anaphylaxis.