WATCHING your child suffer from an anaphylactic reaction is every parent’s worst nightmare.
And when Natalie Hopkins’ daughter, Ella, had a reaction to dairy at the age of two, it was her quick-thinking – and Ella’s EpiPen – that saved her life.
For 29-year-old Natalie, from Rugby – who describes herself as a “professional food label reader” – it was the moment that changed everything.
Now, the mum-of-three and husband Gareth, 41, have launched The Allergy Badge, an innovative new company selling a range of products that could save the lives of thousands of kids – and adults – living with life-threatening allergies.
Explaining they “still have nightmares about that day”, Ella’s anaphylactic reaction was a pivotal moment for the parents – and with the toddler starting nursery, they wanted some extra peace of mind.
And so The Allergy Badge was born, offering a range of bright and beautiful products – including T-shirts, badges and lunchbox stickers – that alert and remind others about a person’s allergies.
All products can be found on the website, with £1 from each purchase donated to Allergy UK[/caption]
“You never expect to be in the position where unless you act quickly, you could lose your child,” Natalie told Fabulous Online.
“But that was the situation I found myself in when Ella accidentally ate some dairy yogurt at the age of two.
“It was incredible how quickly she deteriorated. In the length of time it took me to grab her EpiPen, her face and throat had swelled up and she was gasping for breath.
“She was limp in my arms – I didn’t have time to think or feel, I just tried to stay calm and remember the procedure.”
“I still have nightmares about that day,” she continued.
“It was when everything changed for us really. I live in constant fear about the same thing happening again, only this time the EpiPen not working.
“I’m pretty much a professional label reader and a chef’s worst nightmare.
“I’m sure friends must think I’m over the top sometimes, triple-and-quadruple checking everything Ella eats, but that’s life for us now.
“We’ll do whatever we can to keep her safe.”
A whopping 44 per cent of adults in the UK now live with an allergy and, between 1992-2012, there was a 615 per cent increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis.
Ella is allergic to both nuts and dairy, which means eating out, kids’ parties, holidays and even day-to-day life can be a struggle.
Explaining their daughter is “the fussiest dresser we know” the parents wanted to create a collection of products that kids would actually want to wear.
Supporting Allergy UK, £1 from each purchase is donated to the charity.
“We’d seen a few allergy warnings like lanyards and wristbands, but nothing that felt like Ella would actively want to wear,” Gareth explained.
“With The Allergy Badge our aim was to create a range of products that were bold, colourful, fun and impactful.”
Now three, Ella has recently started nursery – something the parents explain was a “massive deal” for them.
“At home, we could keep Ella in a protective bubble.
“If we ever ate out we tended to stick to the same restaurants and were always close to her whenever we were at kids’ parties.
“But knowing we couldn’t monitor every mealtime just made us feel anxious.
“Yes, we could educate those around us. But even so, we felt we needed some extra peace of mind.
“That’s where the idea for The Allergy Badge came from.
“We wanted to create some visual prompts that would remind anyone looking after Ella that she needs a little bit of extra care – keeping her allergies front-of-mind when she’s off doing kid stuff without us.”
For Natalie and Gareth – who also have two other children, five-year-old Ava and one-year-old Jude – The Allergy Badge is “more than just a signpost”.
“We hope The Allergy Badge will help bring some extra peace of mind for other parents like us,” they explained.
“But we want it to be so much more too.
“We want to use it as a platform to have wider conversations around food allergies and how we can all do more to keep everyone safe.”
Natalie and Gareth want to encourage wider conversations around food allergies[/caption]
“The fact that some children are bullied at school because of their allergies makes us both angry and sad,” they continued.
“This has to change. We don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or ashamed about their allergies.
“We need to educate everyone, everywhere, that food allergies aren’t a ‘weakness’ or an excuse to poke fun at anyone.
“We’re looking forward to connecting with other mums and dads and hopefully, together, we can raise awareness and reach out to schools, nurseries, playgroups and help them to spread the message too.”
Products can be purchased via The Allergy Badge website.
The six main food allergies are stocked (nuts, dairy, wheat, eggs, soy and fish), but T-shirts can be personalised to any allergy or allergy combination.
Added to that, each pin comes with a backing card that doubles up as a handy EpiPen expiry reminder to pop on your fridge.
The six main food allergies are stocked (nuts, dairy, wheat, eggs, soy and fish)[/caption]
- Allergy pins, £8, The Allergy Badge – buy now
Lunchbox stickers can also be purchased[/caption]
- Wearable stickers, £4, The Allergy Badge – buy now
All T-shirts can be personalised[/caption]
- Allergy T-shirts, £16, The Allergy Badge – buy now
What is Anaphylaxis?
- According to the NHS, anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction to a trigger such as an allergy
- Anaphylaxis usually develops suddenly and rapidly gets worse
- The symptoms include: Feeling lightheaded or faint; breathing difficulties – such as fast, shallow breathing – wheezing; a fast heartbreat; clammy skin; confusion and anxiety and collapsing or losing consciousness
- There may also be other symptoms, including an itchy, raised rash, feeling or being sick, swelling or stomach pain
If someone has symptoms of anaphylaxis, the NHS advise to:
- Use an adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen) if the person has one – make sure you know how to use it correctly first
- Call 999 for an ambulance immediately (even if they start to feel better) – mention that you think the person has anaphylaxis
- Remove any trigger if possible
- Lie the person down flat – unless they’re unconscious, pregnant or having breathing difficulties
- Give another injection after 5-15 minutes if the symptoms don’t improve and a second auto-injector is available
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Over the last few years, there have been a number of tragic cases regarding anaphylaxis.
This Morning producer, Amy May Shead, 31, went into anaphylactic shock after taking just one bite of a chicken meal which contained nuts, at a restaurant in Hungary.
While Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, tragically passed away after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich containing sesame seeds.
You can learn more about allergies at the Allergy UK website.