Zoe T. Williams, has been supporting families with food allergies for the past few years. We caught up with Zoe to talk about her journey, her top tips for allergy families, and to find out about her book ‘The Busy Parent’s Guide to Food Allergies’.
Hi Zoe, thanks for agreeing for us to interview you! We know from social media that you are an advocate of raising awareness for allergies. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
Thank you for having me! I’m a mum of two girls aged 8 and 5. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with 6 food allergies by the time she was 1 (milk, eggs, wheat, soya, oats and legumes). However, it was a real struggle to get support from the medical profession. We saw many different doctors during the course of that year and none of them recognised the signs of food allergies. It was a very isolating experience which really made me doubt myself as a parent. We had to just take life one day at a time.
Once we eventually found a doctor who was understanding, we then had to wait months for a referral to a paediatrician and dietitian – but I still had to feed my daughter every day! She was allergic to so many common foods. This was very challenging to manage – for example, there wasn’t a single type of bread she could have. I had to find a whole new approach to cooking and eating. It was a very steep learning curve and we just had to figure things out for ourselves.
Would you say allergies have become more common since you started raising awareness?
Allergies are definitely on the rise – I think everyone knows someone who suffers from an allergy or intolerance. It’s become a modern epidemic.
What more could be done to raise awareness and what changes would you like to see?
I would like to see better training for GPs about food allergy. We also need a huge boost in funding for the NHS to employ more allergy specialists, nurses and dietitians to reduce waiting times. Plus, I’d like schools and childcare providers to have mandatory training in food allergies, as this is a huge source of anxiety for parents with allergies. And how to administer an Epi-Pen should become a part of standard first aid training. We also need more awareness in restaurants and cafes, as this can be very hit and miss, and better food labelling.
Are allergies being taken more seriously in 2019?
Yes and no. When people have had direct experience or a family member who suffers from allergies, they take other people’s allergies seriously. However, some people still have the attitude that people with allergies are just making a fuss over nothing. People still say things like “a little bit won’t hurt”, or at the other extreme, “why would someone with food allergies eat out anyway?” which shows a total lack of understanding of the issues.
What impact would you like to make?
I just want other parents who are in that situation to know that they are not alone, and that there are things they can do to help their child have a better quality of life, as well as reducing anxiety for themselves. Little ones with allergies can still have a normal childhood, we just have to do things a bit differently sometimes.
What’s the main information we can find in your book?
My book, The Busy Parent’s Guide to Food Allergies, is a self-help guide for parents, offering practical and emotional support with the day-to-day management of food allergies. It takes you through the whole journey of parenting a child with food allergies, from getting a diagnosis through to (hopefully) reintroducing the food, or into adulthood. It covers topics such as going on holiday and starting school which can be very challenging with food allergies.
Tell us something interesting about you!
I love to put on cheesy pop music and dance around in my kitchen! (You won’t see a video of that on social media!!!)
Lastly, where can we find you if readers want more information? (socials, webpage, book)