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Emma Amoscato — Helping Families to Live with Serious Allergies

by Ninja - Inspire & Be Inspired
on 29th April 2018

For most of us, a trip to our favourite restaurant is a relaxing, enjoyable experience. For parents of children with severe food allergies, however, such an event can be nerve-racking. But there’s a young  mother in the UK who refuses to let allergies stop her family enjoying a normal life — and her name is Emma Amoscato.

Emma is mum to two young allergy-sufferers, and she’s using her own experiences to help other families in similar situations. She launched the Free From Farmhouse website to share best practices, recipes, travel tips and general advice for families living in the shadow of food allergies. And with a large and fiercely loyal following, Emma is inspiring people every day — and changing lives in the process.

Emma’s life changed when her son J was nine months old — when doctors diagnosed the youngster with  several different allergies. For several months after the diagnosis, Emma and her husband  managed the allergies closely, but the seriousness of their son’s condition became apparent when he suffered anaphylactic shock after getting hold of a friend’s milk bottle.

Fortunately, Emma was close by, and was able to use an EpiPen to alleviate J’s symptoms. But this was a life-changing moment for the whole family. J couldn’t breathe during the episode, and the seriousness of his condition became real for Emma.

Emma said: “Initially, I started the blog as therapy. I wanted to process and channel my emotions. I then realised I could help others by sharing advice and information. I wanted to make the lives of parents in a similar situation easier, which became the driving force behind Free From Farmhouse.”

Emma is meeting challenges head on

Emma used to be a successful features journalist for The Guardian, The Times and The  Independent so she knew she had the ability to connect with people. She worked on the concept for Free From Farmhouse herself, and took personal control of the technical aspects involved in designing and running a website.

Emma said: “There was so much to learn in those first few weeks. I had to learn how to use WordPress, which took a while. I also had to learn how to take quality photographs and upload them onto the site. There are so many things you need to know, including the basics of social media and marketing.

“It has been a steep learning curve. I’ve learned a lot already, but I’m still learning.”

Once Emma had acquainted herself with the basics of website design and digital marketing, she turned her attention to research — and she was amazed at how much information was available online but it was often conflicting or focused on the negative .

Emma said: “The Internet has helped me a lot. I’ve been able to find a lot of information on food allergies, and I’ve read about some fascinating research on potential new therapies. There’s so much to take in, but I want to keep raising awareness and passing on what I’ve learned to parents in a similar situation.

“For example, there’s lots of amazing research happening on the causes of allergies. The advice parents are being given is changing as a result.”

Emma has mixed feelings on allergy awareness in the UK right now

Emma has spoken to many parents in the same situation and  has concerns about the medical community.

She said: “To be honest, the knowledge within the medical community is very hit and miss. Some GPs just don’t know the signs of food allergies; they’re either misdiagnosing them or failing to refer cases to specialists.

“But I understand that GPs have a huge amount of information to process. It’s difficult to get the right information to doctors, but there are guidelines that need to be followed. I’d like to see more awareness of food allergies within the medical community.

“There was a time when parents were advised to keep their young children away from potential allergens such as peanuts an cow’s milk. But there’s now evidence that suggests this is precisely the wrong thing to do. Babies need to be exposed to these substances at an early age so they can develop a tolerance.

“The advice has been flipped on its head over the last few years  and it’s important that this message is communicated to parents.”

The lack of allergen-free products on the market frustrates Emma

Despite allergies becoming an increasingly widespread problem in the Western world, it can still be difficult to find products suitable for multiple allergies  — and that’s a source of great frustration for Emma.

She said: “There are a lot of alternatives to dairy milk on the market, but that’s more to do with health fads than anything else. Coconut milk makes a great whipped cream, for example. When it comes to milk, we have options.

“Finding safe alternatives to eggs is trickier, though. When I’m baking, I like to use the baby pots of apple sauce as a substitute for eggs. Around 60g can take the place of a single egg, and bind everything together.

“I’ve been a judge at the FreeFrom Awards, so I know there are good products out there. It’s just not always easy for parents to find them. The market is still fixated on gluten-free products, which is very frustrating.”

Emma has some important advice for parents

One of the primary goals of Free From Farmhouse is to provide parents with practical advice. Emma has learned a great deal about food allergies over the last five years, and she’s very passionate about sharing it.

She said: “The best advice I can give to parents of young children is to trust your instincts. You know your child better than anyone, so don’t allow your concerns to be fobbed off. If you think something is wrong, make sure you get your point across.

“Do your own research and ask lots of questions. You should never feel awkward about raising concerns and giving your opinion to doctors.”

Eating at restaurants is a notoriously stressful time for parents with young allergy sufferers. Emma knows this better than most, but she hasn’t let it stop her from enjoying her favourite eateries.

She said: “When we go to restaurants I always take a look online first. A lot of chains and larger restaurants have allergen-free sections now, which is great. I’ll call the restaurant before we go, and have a brief chat to make sure all of the information on the website is correct.

“But I have to ask lots of questions. Restaurants are only obliged to include information about 14 allergens, and my children suffer from two or three that aren’t on the list. I try to be as flexible as I can, though. If there’s an easy way to substitute an allergen for something else, I’ll recommend it.

“You can generally tell how knowledgeable restaurant staff are about allergens within a few minutes of talking to them. I ask to speak to the chef directly for clarification, but we always pack our own backup foods – just in case.

Emma tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family

When asked about ways to maintain an allergy-free environment for young children, Emma insisted on using a slightly different approach.

She said: “I think a better way to describe it is ‘allergy friendly’. I know some parents find it easier to simply ban all allergens in their home, and that’s absolutely fine. But we’re dealing with lots of allergens. We also want to enjoy as normal a life as possible.

“We do have to have some pretty strict rules at home, though. We have a dedicated shelf in the fridge for safe foods, and a separate tray in our larder. We have banned sesame seeds completely, but my husband has a contraband cupboard where he keeps his peanut butter.

“It’s difficult, but we manage things closely. My son has outgrown his milk allergy, but my daughter hasn’t. This creates problems, but in a way it’s useful, as it helps us to teach them  about allergens and how to manage them.

“I tell families to find their limits, and develop their own ways of creating a safe home. Everyone has to find their own limits and boundaries, but the last thing any parent wants to do is make home life stressful. It’s all about finding the right balance.”

Emma and her family live with allergies every day, but they don’t let their circumstances stop them doing the important things in life. Reading Emma’s stories and looking at her family photos, you get a sense of how joyful family life is at the Free From Farmhouse — and that’s testament to her positivity and determination.


Emma Amoscato

Emma is mum to two young allergy-sufferers, and she’s using her own experiences to help other families in similar situations. She launched the Free From Farmhouse website to share best practices, recipes, travel tips and general advice for families living in the shadow of food allergies. And with a large and fiercely loyal following, Emma is inspiring people every day — and changing lives in the process.

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