The Allergy & Free From Show 2014

A few days ago, I took my eldest (5 years 11 months) and my youngest (three weeks) across the city to London Olympia for the Allergy and Free From show.

I am not going to play it cool. I was ridiculously excited about going. My toddler (1 year 8 months) suffers from eczema as well as a wide range of allergies (wheat, cow’s milk protein, eggs, tree nuts and seeds) and it can be tricky to feed her when we are out and about. I found out about the Allergy Show a few months ago and the thought we would be able to find dozens of brands dedicated to allergies and exclusion diets under one roof was making me giddy.

The hall was spacious, bright and colourful. It was nothing like the boring shows I got dragged to as a child in dull, grey warehouses that were either freezing cold or stuffy. As soon as we went in, we found the Allergy UK stand and I was booked in an hour later for a private conversation with Maureen Jenkins, the Director of Clinical Services for the charity.

In the meantime, Crevette was drawn towards Allergy Adventures, which was providing a free craft workshop for children. Everyone helping Hailey in the bright yellow area was chatty, friendly and had more enthusiasm than Mister Maker! Crevette would have stayed there all day on the comfortable bean bags if I had let him. He had a brilliant time making a paper plate cupcake and as he was being entertained, I leafed through Hailey’s children books and we bought the ‘egg-free’ one for Jumpy.

Allergy Show - Allergy Adventures

Shortly afterwards, we met with the bubbly Vicki, otherwise known as the Free From Fairy. She had organised for like-minded people blogging or tweeting about allergies and coeliac disease to get together at the café. I wish we could have stayed there for longer, but we had to go back to Allergy UK for our appointment.

Maureen is one in a million; a truly inspiring woman. She is a proactive campaigner who goes out of her way to help people living with allergies. She is determined to spread the word about allergies, educate people, and get more allergy dieticians out there. After listening to Jumpy’s story, she gave me advice on food I could give her, mentioned a new adrenaline auto injector we could ask Jumpy’s paediatrician to prescribe when hers is out of date. She also advised reading Tanya Wright’s books. She even gave me a one ingredient ‘ice cream’ I could make in minutes. For the length of our conversation, Maureen shared her seat with Crevette and she had a little cuddle with Wriggly. When we left after chatting for over an hour, I felt lighter. More dedicated people like Maureen are needed to guide and reassure parents when they have just found out their little ones have life-threatening allergies.

After a great start to the day, I have to admit I was rather disheartened by the fact most food stands had nothing to offer for multiple allergy sufferers. A minority of the exhibitors were catering for my toddler’s range of allergies and overall, it was more of a ‘gluten free’ show than a ‘free from’ show as far as the food was concerned.

Had my little girl been with me, I am not entirely sure I would have managed to find lunch for her. We are not alone with this predicament and I read a couple of posts with similar feelings on the Intolerant Gourmand and Carrots and Maple Syrup‘s blogs.

Nonetheless, a number of the familiar brands we use and buy regularly were there: DS-gluten free, WaterWipes, Plamil Foods, TIANA, Alpro UK, Koko Dairy Free, HayMax, Sainsbury’s freefrom and Tesco Free From range.

I did not buy that much as I had two of my children with me, had to go home by public transport and some of the products I had my eyes on were either bulky or needed to be kept in the fridge.

Here is a little list of new brands I discovered, sampled and fell in love with: Pip Organic, COYO, the Coconut Collaborative, debbie&andrew’s, incognito anti-mosquito, PERK!ER Foods, Goody Good Stuff, Pudology and Smooze UK.

Allergy Show - Shopping

We ran out of time, but these are the stands I would have liked to get to: ilumi, Allergy Lifestyle, Angelic Gluten Free, Freedom Mallows, Fun Foods 4 All, GoodnessDirect, Smart Eats & Treats, Vitamix Europe and Vegusto UK. Tell me what you think if you have tried any of their products.

I wish these had been there: as I wrote at length before, we are huge fans of Lazy Day Foods at home and I would have loved to see them there, as well as Sticky Mix which I discovered through Twitter recently but have not tried yet.

Am I going to the Allergy Show again next year? Yes, yes, 10 times yes!

Have you got a favourite ‘free from’ product? If so, leave a comment to let me know as I always struggle to find nice-tasting ‘free from’ food my little girl can have.

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Comments

  1. Fab blog post, and it’s interesting to see you had the same view regarding catering for multiple allergies! I will definitely be returning to the show next year, and really hope that there will be more on offer for multiple allergies! x

    • Same, but next year, I will probably be going with Jumpy so I think I will do my homework beforehand. I will check the brands on the Allergy Show’s website to make sure she can try lots of new things rather than wandering from one stand to the next not sure which ones are catering for multiple allergies. x

  2. I’m always in awe of parents (and children) dealing with multiple allergies. N has a lactose intolerance, but thankfully only has one symptom and that’s horrible poo…and only with liquid/raw forms like yoghurt, milk, cream, ice cream. Hard cheese seems fine, and when items are cooked. Even that’s hard when your OH doesn’t buy into it.

    So definitely good that there’s shows like this around and more experts gradually coming on the scene to help guide people.

    • Living on a farm, a lactose intolerance has to be the worst! Let’s hope N grows out of it. Seems like my little one might be growing out of her milk protein allergy (waiting for the blood test results but no reaction with the prick test). That would be huge!

  3. It’s so often the case that multiple allergy sufferers are neglected. I am currently having correspondence with my MP, hoping he will ask a question in the Commons re Allergy Care in the UK 🙂 #PoCoLo

    • That is a good point. Would you be happy to share your initial letter to your MP? I would do the same thing. The more people get campaigning, the better. If you had not heard about Maureen, try contacting her. She is wonderful; one of those rare, incredibly passionate people.

  4. Hi Mel! Get blog post and thank for your mention of little old me! I had such a lovely time at the show…the best bit being meeting you I think! Seriously. You are a very inspiring lady and I feel very fortunate to have met you. Take care of your little brood!

    • You must have me confused with someone else. I am frazzled at best most of the time, my brain has not been functioning properly for weeks and my fridge is empty (that one was probably not necessary but I am starving and there is nothing to eat at home!). Loved meeting you too, I am sure we will meet again soon, around here or in Devon! Got to go, hungry baby (at least she has food on tap!) x

  5. Sounds like you ladies had a great time! I considered going but the show coincided with my Alaskan friends’ visit. Perhaps I could tag along with you next time xx #PoCoLo

  6. ~Merlinda~ (@pixiedusk) says:

    I so love events like this! I can get lost in there and not know what time it is. I might need to go to the doctor lately. I just realized throuigh your post that my eczema might be connected to my allergy. Will try to schedule a visit soon!

    Thanks for sharing! #pocolo

    • You are right: there was so much to see and do time went really quickly on that day. My little one’s eczema and allergies are definitely linked.

  7. So great that this was set up!! I’m lucky in not having allergy problems and it appears so far Arthur is allergy free too but my poor husband suffers with Hayfever terribly, has asthma and a nut allergy so I understand how frustrating allergies are and often how difficult it is to just in day to day life!!

  8. This sounds like such an important event for you, and it sounds like you took lots from it, especially with Maureen. How disappointing, though, at an event such as this, that you’d have struggled to feed Jumpy there.

    • It really was great to meet people who understand the scope of Jumpy’s allergies. Next year, I will still bring my little bag of emergency snacks for her just in case. X

  9. Oh blimey bab you are doing such a great job having little ones with allergys! My two have eczema as do I which flares up especially in this heat but touch wood we have escaped everything else. So far. Glad you had so much fun and found something so close to your heart for you all to enjoy xxx

    • Cheers! Eczema can also be such a pain when it gets out of control. Hope your little ones are not too itchy. X

  10. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) says:

    Sounds like you had a fab day and perfect that you got some help and advice for your little one’s allergies! Xx #magicmoments

  11. Sounds like a very worthwhile day out #MagicMoments

  12. how fab to discover such a fantastic resource! it so difficult sometimes to find things so to have so many under one roof is fab 🙂

    thanks for linking up with #MagicMoments x

    • It really was brilliant knowing everything at that show would be dedicated to allergies, eczema etc. It was a really positive experience and I already have my tickets for July 2015!

  13. Kim Carberry says:

    It sounds like you had a fab time…..It does sound disappointing that at an event like that they don’t have a wider range of food stands…

    • We had a great time. I was not surprised not all brands would cater for all her allergies, but the issue to me was that it was more a gluten free show than an allergy show. Oh well… I am still going next year!

  14. Sounds like a great day, I suffer with a a wheat intolerance and something else I have not quite narrowed down yet! It’s not nice and I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a child with it, eczema is just horrid so I am glad you found the day useful and lots of goodies too 🙂 #magicmoments

  15. Hiya what an interesting post-and so helpful. My little boy has eczema and is allergic to a couple of things that we know of but we have yet to identify the main trigger-I am not getting very far and his eczema is getting worse, so I think we will give some free from products a go and see if it makes any difference. It’s a miserable thing to suffer from so would be good to make a difference-might even go along myself next year! xxx #magicmoments

    • Have you read my post about eczema? It sounds like your little boy and my girl are experiencing similar things. When Jumpy’s eczema was getting really angry, I told her dermatologist I thought it was food-related, but that was dismissed and we found out the hard way (a visit to A&E) when she reacted to wheat. It is very difficult to pinpoint what they might be allergic to and keeping a food diary helps. There is a template on the Allergy UK website.

      • Thanks Mel that’s really helpful and yes it really does sound similar-we’ve also been dismissed when it comes to the subject of food/environmental allergy causing his eczema-I just get told that they see it all the time. Which isn’t hugely helpful when he’s awake scratching half the night! He’s currently on his third course of hydrocortisone cream in as many weeks so will see what happens next, but the food diary is proving useful and the template is great-thank you! xxx

        • I hope it gets better for him, poor little man. The mild steroid creams do not have any effect whatsoever on our daughters’ skin. One of them is better with the heat whilst the other one is getting worse (you cannot win, can you?). When I give them Piriton before bed, it helps them sleep and therefore scratch less during the night.

  16. Hi Mel, great to see a blog post with customer feedback on the Allergy Show. Its nice to know how it caters for visitors handling multiple allergies. Love the show but it is very expensive to exhibit when you are starting out as a small business. I worry because it seems very much tipped towards gluten free if its meeting your needs as well and if allergy customers will make the effort to attend. Having said that it is great to get out there and meet the customers face to face, my favourite bit 🙂

    • I saw that you were at the show after the show, what a shame! I wish I had known you were there as we could do with a few of the products you sell. The multi allergy wristbands look great, so does your allergy jewellery, Epipen cases, allergy stories… I will stop there as there is too much I would have liked to look at and buy. Next year, I will be a lot more organised and will come to your stand.

  17. What a clear and concise review. I can’t imagine the “fun” you must have trying to find suitable foods every day. Hubs is/was allergic to prawns and just dealing with that one allergy in an adult is bad enough for me! Hats off lady xx

    • Allergies are always tricky, whether it be one or a range of them. It was brilliant finding out about new brands to try.

  18. It must be so hard feeding your daughter at times. The Preschooler was dairy free then lactose free for a while and that was hard enough. But multiple allergies must be really difficult. I’ve never heard of this show before but I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 x x x

  19. This looks fabulous-sorry you are dealing with multiple allergies. Specialist told us Oliver has urticaria so not food allergies (according to him)-he takes cetirizine daily-hoping he outgrows it and it isn’t specific foods at the root cause. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

    • I am sure she will grow out of at least some of them sooner or later and it looks good for her milk protein allergy, fingers crossed! Urticaria is a pain. I hope Oliver outgrows it at some point. My GP prescribes the same thing for my hay fever and it helps a lot I have to say.

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