How a mum whose son is allergic to cow's milk has become an Allergy Warrior in Chorley, Leyland and Preston

Charlotte Pickthall with 16-month-old Marley Ambrose, of Leyland, who has a severe food allergy'Photo by Milly and Bloom
Charlotte Pickthall with 16-month-old Marley Ambrose, of Leyland, who has a severe food allergy'Photo by Milly and Bloom

Children love making a mess, especially with food, so it is not uncommon for toys and play equipment at children’s centres to be covered in sticky residue.

But for 16-month-old Marley Ambrose, picking up a toy with remnants of anything that has dairy in it can cause a severe allergic reaction.

So his mum, Charlotte Pickthall, has to ensure he comes into no contact with food when playing. The 25-year-old from Leyland says: “Marley is allergic to dairy, eggs, soya and coconut. "We found out he was allergic to cow’s milk (or protein allergy) from four weeks old as he was struggling with baby formula. Our GP trialled him with prescription baby milk and he was a different baby.

“Usually babies grow out of it by the time they are one but when he started weening, he started reacting to other foods. His face and hands swell up and he gets hives all over. It is horrible to see and I hate giving him new foods.

“I struggle to take him out where I feel he is in a safe environment. A child walking round with a biscuit is not harmful to anyone else, but if Marley even picks up a crumb he gets an allergic reaction. I make him wear a hi-vis jacket which says ‘don’t leave any food around’ as people don’t realise.

“Marley is touch sensitive, so a child who has a packet of crisps but his hands aren’t wiped clean, will then touch a toy or put it in their mouth. Marley could then touch that toy or put it in his mouth and he could get a reaction. Even though he has not touched the food, the protein from the other children’s mouths on toys can affect him.

“It is hard work going out or visiting people. My family know not to feed him. If he goes to a party I take our own food and ask parents to make sure the food is cleared away and the children are cleaned up.

“I have to email children’s groups beforehand to make sure they don’t serve food and to make sure they clean the children’s hands after they have eaten. But not a lot of groups can control that. The only group I have found is based at St Mary’s Priory Club, in Leyland. The childminders make sure the children are sat down when eating and wipe their hands so it doesn’t cross over to toys.

“A lot of children grow out of it by the time they reach five but I don’t know yet. He has food challenges at Royal Preston Hospital where he is given a biscuit with a tiny amount of dairy to see if he will react. I think he will still react at this stage, but they will keep trying every six months in this safe environment to build up his tolerance.”

Charlotte and her family work hard at creating a safe space for Marley and despite his allergies, he is a happy and healthy child.

Charlotte adds: “He also has eczema which doesn’t help with the flare ups so he can be covered head to toe sometimes, but he is still smiling. He is such a happy child and very quiet.
“Marley has an older brother, Carter, who is four and was born with congenital emphysema defect. He used to stop breathing and had sleep apnoea. He had lung surgery when he was one and although he still has the condition, his body knows how to control it and he is doing okay.”

Using her experiences with Marley, Charlotte has now set up a Facebook group, Allergy Warrior. She adds: “I started off doing an Instagram page to share recipes and chat with other people who have children with allergies. I met up with one of the women who suggested we have a meet up to create a safe space for our children. I set up the Facebook group in June and we had our first meet in July, with mums from Preston, Leyland and Chorley. Businesses have gifted us items for our children to try, such as Childs Farm moisturiser and Water Wipes which are sensitive for children with eczema.”

Food allergies affect around five per cent of adults and eight per cent of children.
A food allergy is a condition in which certain foods trigger an abnormal immune response. It’s caused by your immune system wrongly recognizing some of the proteins in a food as harmful. Your body then launches a range of protective measures, including releasing chemicals like histamine, which causes inflammation.
For people who have a food allergy, even exposure to very small amounts of the problem food can cause an allergic reaction.
An allergy to cow’s milk is most often seen in babies and young children, especially when they have been exposed to cow’s milk protein before they are six months old. It’s one of the most common childhood allergies, affecting two to three per cent of babies and toddlers. Those with cow’s milk allergies must avoid any foods or drinks that contain: milk; milk powder; cheese; butter; margarine; yogurt; cream; ice cream.