It’s the Allergy Show at Olympia this month. ‘Allergy’. It’s an emotive word. If you read this blog regularly you'll probably have picked up that my Boys can't eat nuts.
It wasn't supposed to be that way, of course. I’m one of the lucky ones, never affected by so much as hayfever, and for much of my life I rather arrogantly thought that was more of an act of will –‘ I’m not sissy enough to suffer from allergies! ‘- than what it actually is; a gift from the gods. And I certainly never imagined that one would affect my children.
Famous last words; at 8 months pregnant with Boy #2 I discovered that pride comes before a fall when one evening Boy #1 asked for – and was given - a brazil nut. I had been advised not to give him any nuts before his second birthday, but that had just passed so I thought, why not? He was my son; of course he wouldn’t be allergic.
He started to chew. The next moment, my smug preconceptions shattered as he spat the nut out and started to cry. Two minutes later his hands had turned bright red, white pin-pricks appearing all over them.
Trying not to panic I dropped everything, rushed him out to the car, and we made it to the paediatric emergency department of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in 5 minutes flat. By the time we got there he was unrecognisable, the top of his face swollen like a punch-drunk boxer’s. Whilst we were ‘lucky’, and this time the puffiness stopped just below his eyes - meaning that his airways were left clear – his was a fairly serious reaction and the normal treatment (Piriton) didn’t work; he had to be admitted overnight and given steroids.
It was a chastening experience for one so blithely certain that allergies were for sissies.
Since then we have been fortunate, experiencing only one or two ‘incidents’. We carry Piriton and an epi-pen with us everywhere we go, and since nuts appear in more processed food than you might imagine, home-baking now features heavily in my culinary repertoire. (Not great for my figure, but it would be a crime to make a cake and not taste it yourself, don’t you agree?) And I have had to overcome my natural English reticence, becoming a complete pain when eating out and at children's parties, questioning lists of ingredients and carrying back-up supplies of snacks in case the answers don’t come up to scratch. Which is scarily often.
Nowadays, allergy is an inconvenience rather than something that has blighted our lives. Both Boys are matter of fact about it and understand that nuts are off-limits. There is the slight chance that they may grow out of this (only 10% of nut allergy sufferers do, however), or that modern medicine might find a cure, but right now we just tell them it is something that they will always have. They seem to accept it, for the moment at least.
Sadly, it does mean that peanut butter and satay – to which Husband and I were previously both addicted – are forbidden fruit. Which, I suppose, at least balances out some of the damage done to my waistline by all that home-baking...
I wrote this piece for a local magazine, and they've given me 2 pairs of free tickets for the Allergy & Gluten Free Show at Earls Court Olympia in June. If you're interested in going, drop me a line with your address at pottymummy(at)gmail(dot)com and I will pass them on to the first two people who do so...