Allergy

Post written in partnership with the Portland Hospital.

Is there anything more frightening than your child falling suddenly, and dramatically ill? When all the relaxed parenting attitude you’ve carefully cultivated over the years evaporates and you’re reduced to pacing and biting your nails as you try to figure out what’s wrong with your baby.

This happened to us a few weeks ago, as GG went to bed with a couple of raised, itchy bumps on her tummy, and woke 3 hours later almost completely covered in allergic hives. Piriton barely touched it, and I spent the next two nights sponging her down with calamine lotion as we waited for steroids to kick in and help her young body overcome this huge reaction to an as-yet unknown allergen.

She has asthma, and although this particular flare up didn’t bring on any breathing difficulties, we couldn’t take that chance, and so she spent her nights in my bed, and her days off school, so that I could monitor her and be ready with the inhaler if she deteriorated. Our GP agreed to refer us to a peadiatric allergy specialist for testing, as this was not the first time she had had an odd skin reaction, and we felt it was time to find out what – if anything – she needed to avoid going forward.

Luckily, Actually Daddy has BUPA family cover through his job, and so we decided to use a private consultant. We’d been recommended Professor Lack, at the Portland Hospital, by a friend who works as an asthma nurse, and so I made the call. From start to finish (well current day really, as we’re not finished yet – the Prof is being really thorough with us), the process of getting her seen and treated has been incredibly slick. One phone call, and we were seen the following week, with an appointement that covered absolutely everything, so that we were well on the way to a diagnosis by the time we came home from that first visit.

First visit to the Portland Hospital

Skin prick testing at the Portland Hospital

  • Booking in – incredibly easy. We actually made the mistake of going to the wrong part of the hospital initially, but the lovely doorman not only told us where we ought to be, he actually stopped the traffic on Great Portland Street to escort us across the road! A quick check of our details and insurance number and we were sent up to the waiting room.
  • Skin-prick tests. GG was very nervous. Not a fan of needles, she still gets stressed about her annual flu jab, so this had been worrying her all week. I held my breath as the nurse got her needles and potions ready. I really couldn’t believe my eyes as my daughter chatted happily with the nurse, who put her totally at ease, while the various tests were done. Not even a wince. In less than a minute we could plainly see her allergies – tree pollens. Thankfully mould, dust-mite, and pet allergens raised no reaction.
  • Then straight into our consultation with the consultant, who told us what the tests showed, checked her history, and made a prescription for her irritating cough. He diagnosed post-nasal drip – a side-effect of her hayfever – and gave us a prescription to fill with our GP for a simple nasal spray. He also recommended some blood tests for specific allergens.
  • Blood tests – that was the point at which the tears threatened. She’s seen me have a blood test and marvelled that I don’t scream down the phlebotomy lab! “Oh, you don’t need to worry, just pop downstairs and see the nurses for some Emla cream and you won’t feel a thing,” reassured the office staff as we went to make our follow-up appointment. Twitter begged to differ, claiming the cream doesn’t work. Let us tell you, it does when they apply it at the Portland! A good teaspoon of cream in each elbow crease, covered with a huge plaster, and the instruction to go and have lunch while we waited the 45 minutes it would take to work. I was instructed to hold her tight to stop her wriggling, but in the event she had no idea the needle was in. Emla cream works!
  • Follow-up – a fortnight later we were back. This time there was a short wait to be seen, so we made friends with the other children in the waiting room. A girl eating various states of apple – cooked, peeled, unpeeled – under supervision; a baby with a peanut allergy. Then a full debrief on what GG was allergic to – tree pollens mostly, and raw potato starch. No peeling potatoes for her then!

The Portland is an award-winning hospital providing private care for children and maternity services. We have visited previously, when GG had terrible eczema as a baby. Again, we were treated quickly and given a prescription for a cream which completely cleared her dry skin, making life instantly more comfortable for all of us. We are huge fans of our local GP, but sometimes, when your mind needs putting at rest quickly, somewhere like the Portland Hospital is a huge reassurance.

Visit the Portland Hospital website to find out more about the services they offer. We have been compensated for writing about our experiences at the Portland.

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