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>> Friday, 29 May 2009

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...

11 comments:

Iota 30 May 2009 at 00:53  

I can't imagine how scary that is. I assume you found out that Boy #2 was allergic at a nice safe allergy clinic, rather than with another nut incident.

Expat mum 30 May 2009 at 03:32  

Very scary. I am an allergy sufferer but only to "seasonal" stuff, which seems to be almost a year-round thing here. Today however, we went to little guys' Spring Fling, where they has a painting project (adult supervised) with rubbing alcohol (basically paint stripper). Within minutes, my nose was streaning (buckets) after which I had a terrible headache. Later on I had a temperature, and then stomach ails. I am not a small woman - WTF?

Hullaballoo 30 May 2009 at 09:14  

I would have the same reaction as you, what a shock to discover that your son has a nut allergy.

The Dotterel 30 May 2009 at 12:07  

Frightening! Charlie is actually taking part in something called the 'Leap' study and is avoiding peanuts completely until the age of five.

Rubberbacon 30 May 2009 at 13:18  

Wow I'm glad I read this. I had no idea a nut allergy could be so bad! I also naively assumed that if I didn't have a nut allergy my children wouldn't. I'll be careful.

Potty Mummy 30 May 2009 at 16:24  

Too right, Iota. We weren't going through that hospital dash twice if we could help it!

EPM, it's amazing how some people are allergic to the strangest things. I met a girl a while back who was allergic to apples. Apples? As you said, WTF?

HB, a shock, and a bit discomforting as up until that point I had always assumed parents who said their kids had allergies were being 'overprotective'. HA! Served me right.

TD, very wise. Although I'm afraid Husband's cousin's daughter didn't come up with hers until she was 7, so there's just no telling.

RB, don't worry about it. It's only 3% of kids who do (although if you translate that into class sizes that means approx 1 child in a class of 30+ will have it). You should mainly worry if you have a family history of eczema, asthma, or relatives with nut allergy. In any of those cases then wait until your daughter is able to communicate properly with you (i.e. 2-ish) before you give her ANY type of nut.

The Gossamer Woman 30 May 2009 at 19:56  

But PM, I thought a peanut was not actually a kind of nut, but really a sort of bean like a soy bean. Has he been tested for peanuts?

Potty Mummy 30 May 2009 at 20:12  

Yes, Irene, he has. On Thursday, as it happens. And both boys are allergic, as well as to tree nuts, oh joy.

Pig in the Kitchen 1 June 2009 at 22:26  

oh, my littlest is allergic to brazil nuts (as well as all the rest)...you have shattered all hope for me tonight pottyM with your 90% don't grow out of it statistic. (i know you didn't quite write that...) and the thing about the eyes swelling...she recently got yogurt on her cheek and her eye came up like a golf ball. oh bugger. allergies are pants.
Pigx
(not really blaming you for my child's allergies ;-) )

Lisa (Jonny's Mommy) 2 June 2009 at 18:14  

I've discovered in recent years I am allergic to corn. So, stay away from corn products, right? Well, try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup in this country. It is in everything and I mean everything. Bread, crackers, soda, spaghetti sauce, ketchup (which I hate anyhow), cereal, yadda, yadda, yadda. There are things my husband says "It can't be in that," but guess what . . . it is. Now, that, is almost as hard as nuts to avoid, so I can relate, just a bit. However, I have yet to have swollen up after eating it. Just a panic attack or two or three and then I eventually throw up (and break out in a nice red rash). And eventually my chest tightens up if I'm stupid enough to keep eating it. Thankfully I'm usually not too stupid. :-)

Potty Mummy 3 June 2009 at 00:12  

Pig, sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. She could be in the 10%. She COULD be...

Lisa, that's a nightmare! Have you checked out Pig's blog for some allergy-free home cooking tips? (Not sure she deals with this one, mind you). You know, for in your spare time? When you have nothing better to do with your time? And never - NEVER -trust a man to make an accurate assessment on allergy risk. They don't understand that just because, for example, it's not called 'nut cake' that doesn't mean it's nut free...

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