The Independent London Newspaper
23rd April 2019

Health news - Being allergy aware could save your life

    Kirsten Greenwood with Jo Swinson, Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire

    With the season for snacking just around the corner, allergy sufferers must be extra vigilant.

    FROM brandy-soaked puddings to bread sauce, the festive feast is all about tucking into some tasty treats and a bit of experimental cooking.
    But what’s that lurking in your stuffing?
    The Christmas season can be a nightmare for people suffering from nut allergies, many of whom have to pick through every morsel for a rogue walnut.
    Even the slightest trace of nut can lead to wild flare-ups characterised by maddening rashes, tightening of the of the windpipe and, in the severest case, of anaphylaxis – severe allergic reaction – can cause cardiac arrest and death.
    Kirsten Greenwood, who lives in Highgate, discovered she had the condition when just 12 years old after being rushed to accident and emergency after she ate a chocolate-covered walnut at Christmas time.
    She said: “The box of chocolates had been brought here from South America and the ingredients were in Spanish.
    “I had a tingling in my mouth, then I started coughing and my lips were burning and swel­ling up. There were huge blisters all over my body.”
    Now 14, Kirsten told MPs at a meeting in Parliament on Thursday about the importance of warnings on food packaging.
    Kirsten is not new to campaigning. After her allergic reaction, she set to work raising funds to promote awareness about the dangers of food allergies and even commissioned a nut-free recipe book.
    Kirsten, who wants to be a pop star like country singer Taylor Swift, said: “I wrote to all the family of my school friends for recipes that didn’t contain nuts.”
    She was rewarded with a Blue Peter badge and the book has raised £1,600 for anaphylaxis charities, which are campaigning about the “inadequate” care available for allergy patients on the NHS.

    Some major supermarkets, which can be sued for not providing warnings, have already begun taking precautions.
    Kirsten’s mum, Anne, who is allergic to cat hair and dust, said: “We can’t buy anything in Marks & Spencer any more.
    “I don’t think there are nuts in spaghetti – but they are worried about them being contaminated during production.” She added: “We make all our own cakes and biscuits now, just in case.”
    While the cause of allergies is uncertain, some research has shown that middle-class children may suffer because of their “cosseted” upbringings, which could stunt the development of their immune systems. Some top scientists believe that increases in the number of children suffering from asthma and eczema are linked to a lack of exposure to allergens, such as house dust mites or pollens, early in life.
    Mandy East, spokeswoman from the National Allergy Strategy Group (NASG), an alliance of allergy organisations, disagrees with this theory.
    “I don’t think that’s the case,” she said. “Allergies are not an exact science.
    “What is important is that many children have never seen an NHS allergy consultant and have been living with potentially severe allergies for most of their lives with no support or management advice.
    “It is important that the Department of Health recognise that allergy is a growing epidemic and that we must act now to ensure long-term care is available for all.”
    TOM FOOT

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