We'd had our run ins with a mild tomato allergy with our firstborn but I admit that I was a bit incredulous when I met so many parents clutching EpiPens at the park and bringing separate food packages to birthday parties.
In a post truth society I guess it is inevitable that people don't take allergies seriously. Too often food allergies are lumped together with dietary preferences and seen as a choice. Even GPs can be quick to dismiss symptoms. Yet the cost can be a life.
Throughout my pregnancies that resulted in healthy babies (see post on Miscarriage) I was given a mixture of contradictory advice on whether eating nuts would harm or protect my unborn babies. As a result, I generally avoided eating peanuts as a snack but would quite happily take an energy boost from a peanut laden Snickers bar because I flip flopped as often as those advising me.
Once my children were weaned I didn't offer them whole peanuts through fear of choking rather than any consideration of allergies. They ate products with nuts in but it was at a buffet that my son ate his first and only whole peanut. The reaction was immediate. Thankfully, he vomited as soon as the peanut touched his tongue thus ridding his body of the substance as quickly as possible. He developed hives on his skin and looked pale and sleepy. It won't have helped that both his parents were looking at him with sheer panic across their faces. We were so lucky that he did not have an anaphylactic reaction but there is no guarantee that he would not on another occasion.
A short visit to the hospital, followed up with an appointment with the GP and I had joined the EpiPen club. It is manageable at home but I am nervous when eating in restaurants and at friends' houses. I feel obliged to stay at every birthday party unless the host insists that they are comfortable with using an EpiPen.
It's so easy to slip into complacence and leave the medicine bag at home. I'm fearful of the future when he may be sharing a kitchen at college; when drinking alcohol may impact his decision making or when he kisses someone who has recently eaten peanuts.
But I am also hopeful that we, as a society, will be better educated and better able to create safe environments for those at risk.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign is the only UK wide charity focused on supporting those at risk of severe allergies. The organisation has been providing information and support to patients and their families for over 21 years.
'Our ultimate aim is to create a safe environment for all people with allergies by working with and educating the food industry, schools, pre-schools, colleges, health professionals and other key audiences. Our focus is on medical facts, food labelling, risk reduction and allergen management.'
Education begins at home
We were very grateful to First Steps First Aid who offered a course for our family at home where we learned about how to use adrenaline auto-injectors so that our three children could appreciate the severity of the allergy and feel empowered to be able to help. The older siblings both know how to read food labels and are on hand to speak up for their younger brother when adults innocently offer snacks to him without the necessary review of ingredients.
I have chosen The Anaphylaxis Campaign as one of my 40 charities because we all need reminding that food allergies are not simply a nuisance but potentially life-threatening. If you would like to make a donation towards the work of this charity please follow this link.