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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Allergies: ‘Parents don’t understand how easily it can happen and how serious it is’

Two parents that have children with nut allergies talk of the constant fear that their child could go into anaphylactic shock

When young children suddenly start fighting for breath when an allergic reaction kicks-in, it can be a terrifying ordeal for parents.

Severe reactions to foodstuffs is becoming more common as the way foods are processed changes.

Jean Luc has two sons, aged 4 and 7, and both have a severe allergic reaction to nuts.

“It all started with my oldest son who ate pistachio nuts and had a reaction,” he said.

“Then when my second son came along, he was 3 when he ate a tiny cashew nut and ended up in hospital.

“It was frightening as it changes the face of the child. They had white dots on their face and their throats were tightening, so it was harder for them to breathe.”

Luckily, tragedy was averted as the boy was taken to hospital but the family has had to change its approach to food.

“The response time is critical, and the child is usually smart enough to know what is happening.

“Now these reactions are rare as we live in fear, so are very careful. All of the contingency plans are in place.

“We tell the children to only eat the food we give them, and their school is doing a great job in educating other parents and creating nut-free zones in the school.

“The school has an epi-pen with adrenaline, so they are prepared if anything happens.

Read more: The most common food intolerances, from diagnosis to treatment

“I even drop my kids off at school so there is no chance of them swapping their food with other children - you have to think of all eventualities and live with it.”

Epi-pens must be stored at room temperature and have a shelf life of about 12 months. They are usually covered by health insurance, otherwise they would cost about Dh350.

Most schools now carry these in the event a child has an adverse reaction, with staff trained in how to use them.

“The first time we realised my son had a nut allergy was when he was 6 and had an ice-cream,” said another parent.

“He had had a slight cough and swelling before but we didn’t think it was an allergic reaction.

“When he had the ice-cream, we had no idea it contained nuts. It was only afterwards when we checked the ingredients.

“He had stomach pain and was vomiting. It was concerning so we took him to the doctor.

“My son knows now to check his food and will remind his teachers when he is on trips.

“If he goes bowling with his friends and they are eating nuts, he can have a bad reaction by touching the bowling ball.

“Parents don’t seem to understand how easily it can happen and many don’t appreciate how serious it can be.

“It is not pleasant to watch someone going through that, when they can’t breathe, it is severe and can be potentially fatal.”