What’s it like having a son with life-threatening nut allergies? Carla, a member of Westwood PTA in Buckley, shares her story and why the stigma of ‘allergy parents’ is wrong.
Isn’t it strange, how sometimes you just know?
We had taken our kids, Dylan then 6 and Ryan 3 to a local fair. As we were leaving we got ice cream, Dylan got a fully loaded 99, sherbet, sprinkles, nuts, sauce – the works! But I had an uneasy feeling about Dylan eating his, with no clear reason why. He had eaten this type of ice cream plenty of times before.
When we got to the car he started coughing a bit and on the way home he complained of being itchy, and continued coughing.
“…but he had eaten nuts many times?”
We arrived home and he had only eaten half his ice cream and didn’t want the rest. As you can imagine this is not normal for a child! He was now wheezy with red lips. I knew that this was some sort of allergic reaction, as I am allergic to things too. I gave him an antihistamine and he fell straight to sleep. On waking 1 hour later he was very distressed, covered in hives and wheezing a lot. I drove him straight to hospital.
I didn’t have time to panic, it all happened so fast. But why was this happening, he had eaten nothing that he hadn’t eaten before?
We arrived at hospital and he was semi-conscious. He was whisked into resuscitation and put on oxygen, given steroids and monitored. The questions started. “Has this happened before?” “Has he eaten anything?” Yes he had an ice-cream, with nuts. I knew, I just knew it was the nuts – but he had eaten nuts many times?
“The thought that he may actually stop breathing is unthinkable.”
His symptoms were easing with the medication but we had to stay in overnight, on oxygen. I allowed myself to be terrified of what had actually happened. Seeing your child struggle to breathe is an awful thing to witness. The thought that he may actually stop breathing is unthinkable.
At 3am, I awoke from my makeshift bed to find Dylan thrashing around. I called the nurse, he was having a secondary reaction. His body was again covered in itchy hives and he was wheezy, cue more steroids and oxygen, and it calmed down. After a visit from the doctors in the morning he was allowed to leave with a follow up appointment with the allergy clinic.
At the allergy clinic, we discussed the incident and his history. This reaction had come from nowhere, so he was tested for peanuts and other nuts, as well as dogs – we have a dog who can provoke a pin prick rash on his arm if her whiskers touch him! The test proved he was allergic to peanuts (and dogs)!
“… this buys Dylan 10 minutes in case of emergency”
We were provided information, don’t eat this food, be careful with that – avoid all nuts due to the risk of cross contamination. Then we were issued with an EpiPen – this is an auto-injector which gives an adrenalin shot, this buys Dylan 10 minutes in case of emergency. We had a care plan, we had to be trained on how to administer the meds, how to save his life! And that’s exactly what it is, saving his life, if he comes into contact with a peanut he can react, that can be him eating or someone eating by him.
We worked with school so that everyone knew what to do, even the kids in his class were given the facts. The school kitchen checked too and parents were advised not to send in nut products.
Dylan is very aware of his allergy. He remembers how scary it was. He now carries an emergency medical bag everywhere.
“I don’t want my son to die.”
People think allergy parents (i.e parents with children that have allergies) are over protective fussy parents. But the reality is I don’t want my son to die. It’s that serious. If he eats a nut his airways and face swell up, and he cannot breathe. Can you imagine that let alone watch it happening to your child?
Food labels are a nightmare. Look at something you would never expect to contain nuts, I bet you the label says “may contain nuts” or “made in a factory where nuts are also handled”. This is my daily dilemma – how do I choose safe foods?
“I want him to live a normal life without being excluded because of his allergies.”
We believe strongly in raising awareness and talk about it everywhere. We also do fundraising and we train people on how to use an EpiPen. Recently we did a session with the Cubs group he is in. I want him to live a normal life without being excluded because of his allergies.
The stigma of having allergies to anything also needs to change. We are not neurotic parents overreacting. Would you want your child to die from eating something?
Do you think your child might have an allergy? Or do you know that they do but you’re not sure how to cope? We offer some information and advice on symptoms, resources and allergy-friendly recipes.
Want to find out about services available to you and your child in your area? Would you like to chat about family matters in general? Then get in touch with the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline.
- Phone: 0300 222 57 57
- Text: 07860 052 905
- Instant message (see top of page)
We are open 6pm – 10pm Monday to Thursday and 10am – 2pm Friday & Saturday.