How a simple ice cream sent a 1-year-old baby into anaphylactic shock

Mum Caroline Brown explains what happened when her son Callum's peanut allergy was discovered on holiday

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When you’re weaning your baby there’s so much you’re told about what foods you should and shouldn’t give them.

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A big talker is whether and when to give your baby peanuts – which, if your little one is allergic, could have serious and potential fatal consequences.

But it’s hard to know if your child has an allergy until they have a reaction. That’s exactly what happened to Caroline Brown, who was on holiday with her family in the Middle East back in 2010 when her 1-year-old son Callum (now 7) ate an ice-cream with nuts on it – and within minutes started getting hives on his chest.

His face and chest went red and he was in so much pain he was unable to speak.

“When they’re that little it’s hard to interpret their pain,” Caroline tells MFM, but she knew something pretty serious was happening.

He was rushed to hospital (fortunately nearby) where a doctor recognised the symptoms almost straight away. Callum was quickly given an adrenalin shot – and thankfully recovered completely.

How to live with a peanut allergy without fear

Over the years, mum Caroline’s found it’s been a “balancing act” between making sure Callum knows what he can and can’t eat without scaring him. The challenge is that nuts can be in a range of unexpected foods. 

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“I’m always very cautious, but have been careful to equip him with the tools he needs without putting fear into him,” she tells MFM. Callum carries an EpiPen [a portable injection of synthetic adrenalin] for emergency treatment and she trusts that he’ll make the right choices and stick to foods he knows are OK.

“Now he’s an at age he can read labels on foods and he’s been taught that some snacks – like Kit Kats – are OK while others may not be.”

When Callum started going to parties and play dates, where he’d inevitably face being offered treats he couldn’t eat, Caroline learnt the best thing to do was be upfront with children as well as adults.

With that in mind, she visited Callum’s school to talk to the children about his allergy, and then decided to write a children’s book on the subject, Nutti The Squirrel Who Couldn’t Eat Nutswhich has been endorsed by Allergy UK.

So how do you spot an allergic reaction?

When Callum had his first reaction to eating peanuts, Caroline could immediately see that something was wrong from his physical symptoms.

But the fact that something’s not quite right might not always be so clear cut, says Caroline, and that’s why it’s important to listen to what your child’s trying to tell you – especially when they’re little and might not have all the words they need to express themselves.

“When Callum ate beans and peas, he was able to get across that he had the same feeling as when he ate peanuts, which is how she discovered he had a rare allergy that includes the whole legume family.

“If your child says there’s something wrong – even if they’re not able to articulate it well – they’re not usually making things up and it’s important to take them seriously.”

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Nutti the Squirrel who couldn’t eat nuts

Caroline’s book, Nutti the Squirrel who couldn’t eat nuts, is beautifully illustrated so children will love it. The book has been designed to give confidence to children with allergies as well as bringing awareness and understanding to friends and their parents about living with allergies.

You can buy it on Amazon from 25 October 2016.

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