The Wallace family from Fareham, Hampshire were real chocoholics. As keen members of a chocolate club, the family of four used to love cosy nights in with their monthly delivery of sweet treats.
Pictured right: Mum Victoria with sons Stephen, 11 and Danny, 6
Telling us her story, Mum Victoria said:
“It was often our treat when the boys had gone to bed. My husband Simon has been a member of the chocolate club for as long as I can remember.”
But one evening when eldest son Stephen came downstairs to join in with the chocolate tasting, it changed the family’s outlook on the sweet snack forever.
“Stephen couldn’t sleep one night so came downstairs and asked if he could try a chocolate – he literally bit into it, spat it out and said ‘that’s gross’,” says Victoria.
The three-year-old immediately started going into anaphylactic shock and was rushed into hospital.
“Within a minute his eyes were closing over, so we took him to hospital straight away.”
Southampton Allergy Clinic Were Amazing
After emergency treatment, Stephen was referred to Southampton Allergy Clinic for skin prick testing. It turned out, he had a severe allergy to hazelnuts.
“Southampton Allergy Clinic were fantastic. I felt so sorry for Stephen having all the skin prick tests at only 3-years-old. It’s very painful, but they are brilliant with children.
“The diagnosis process was very quick and it was all done in one day. The next day we were able to see the consultant who gave us all the relevant information and showed us how to use an EpiPen,” says Victoria.
Dealing with the Nut Allergy Scare-Factor
For Victoria, going from being a normal family of four to suddenly having a serious allergy to contend with was a scary process.
“It is scary going from having a completely healthy child, to suddenly knowing if they come into contact with something they’re
allergic to, you literally have minutes to give them an adrenaline dose from the EpiPen.”
Although Stephen is only allergic to hazelnuts, Southampton Allergy Clinic advised the family to avoid all types of nut, which Victoria was more than happy to do.
“The safest thing to do is just avoid nuts at all costs. Inform your school or nursery and encourage them to do the same. Stephen’s school also have an emergency EpiPen and have been trained how to use it.
“We’re very lucky. Even our tennis club have been very virulent in making sure Stephen is safe.”
In their bid to have a nut-free home, the family are no longer chocoholics either.
“We’re not a member of the chocolate club anymore – that completely and utterly terrified us.”
Seeking Allergy Support
The mum-of-two feels it’s important to have a support network around you.
“If you’re worried you should seek support. The more scared you are, the more it rubs off on your child. Online communities like Net Mums are really useful.
“If you can’t find support that suits you then do something about it. Start a campaign and begin contacting people online – you can guarantee someone will be in a similar situation,” says Victoria.
Keeping Your Food-Allergic Teen Safe
Now aged 11, Stephen is wanting to go out with his friends, posing a new challenge for Victoria.
“Stephen has reached that age where he wants to go to the skate park and out with his friends. It’s just half an hour here and there, but if something happened to him, no one would know about his allergy.”
Pictured right: Stephen proudly wearing his allergy alert wristband.
It was Victoria’s mum who suggested Stephen should wear some form of medical ID.
“My mum is diabetic and wears an SOS talisman. I thought it might be hard to find something Stephen would wear with him being at that pre-teen age.
“I looked online and found many wristbands that could be engraved or printed with your medical details. Silicone wristbands are really fashionable at the moment and Stephen thought they looked cool so we had a winner.”
Victoria has taught Stephen to carry his EpiPen at all times, but needs him to wear medical ID for her own peace of mind.
“He has his EpiPen with him at all times, but in an emergency situation when his airways are closing up, he’s not necessarily going to use it properly. If a child or anyone is struggling to breathe, you automatically panic.
“I got the wristband to give me reassurance, but also to alert other people when he’s out without me.”
The family are also proud of Stephen for accepting his allergy and taking it seriously.
“Stephen is very accepting that these things happen in life. We’re very proud of him,” says Victoria.