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   Inside Out - North West: Monday February 7, 2005

LIFE THREATENING ALLERGIES

Inside Out's Ana Boulter and Vicki Poole in the supermarket
Food shopping is a difficult task for nut allergy sufferers

A child's first sleepover can be a nerve-wracking time for any parent, but mum Vicki Poole is more anxious than most.

With severe food and chemical allergies, a sleep-over for her daughter Chloe could be a matter of life or death.

At the age of 12, Chloe Poole longs to take part in usual teenage activities - shopping with friends, trips to the cinema, sleepovers.

But Chloe's allergies are so severe she can't even sit in the same room as her classmates for fear the food they have eaten, or the toiletries they have used, may trigger an allergic attack.

"I'll start itching at first, then my throat will start to swell up and I'll have to have an adrenaline inhaler," explains Chloe.

Going nuts

Anaphylactic shock is a sudden catastrophic allergic reaction involving the whole body.

Immediate medical treatment is essential. Without it the heart and circulation may fail - this can prove fatal.

"One theory is that we live in an environment which is too clean and therefore the immune system turns to other things."
Dr Kate Ward

Chloe is anaphylactic to all nuts and certain chemicals and must avoid particular shampoos and perfumes.

She's also intolerant to milk, eggs, chocolate, olives, shellfish and prawns.

Chloe's allergy is so severe that avoiding these products herself is not enough. She cannot come into contact with anyone else who has consumed or used these products either.

This makes everyday activities such as attending school potentially life threatening.

To reduce the risk of an allergic attack, Chloe has to be taught individually in a tightly restricted classroom.

She also carries a medical pack to school containing a shot of adrenaline, should an attack occur.

Born to dance

Chloe dancing
Chloe dreams of a career on the stage

Many activities involving social interaction are restricted for Chloe as the danger of an attack is just too great.

"She is missing out on a lot of things," agrees Mum, Vicki.

"But we do try and do what we can for her to have a normal life."

Yet thanks to a local dance school's vigilance, Chloe is able to pursue her dreams of a future on stage.

Letters were sent to parents of children attending dance classes and notices were posted around the studio explaining Chloe's condition.

With the dance school declared a nut free zone, Chloe is able to compete at national level.

"It was a huge milestone for her, to go and do what other girls do," explains Vicki.

Not alone

Anaphylactic shock

If you have ever had anaphylaxis you must be referred to an allergy clinic for full assessment and to identify the cause of the reaction.

If you or someone you know is prone to anaphylaxis, the following precautions should be taken to prevent future anaphylactic reactions:

Have your own preloaded adrenaline auto-injector

Carry your medicines with you at all times and make sure you are familiar with how to use them

Inform other people at home, work or college about your allergy and where you keep your medicines and how they are used

Make sure that your medication is easily accessible and that the 'use by date' has not passed

Wear a special medic alert bracelet or necklace that will inform emergency medical staff about your condition

Source: BBC Health

Chloe is one of thousands of people suffering from nut allergies in the UK and it appears the numbers are rising.

Over a 20 year period, the clinic where Chloe is treated has witnessed a 75 percent increase in the number of children with nut allergies.

The number of allergic patients has risen from five to 370 - an increase that Dr Kate Ward believes is partly due to lifestyle changes.

"One theory is that we live in an environment which is too clean and therefore the immune system turns to other things."

Research suggests that the surrounding environment during the first year of life is particularly important.

Constant exposure to cigarette smoke, dust mites, pollens, pets and certain foods increase the likelihood of becoming allergic, as does the western lifestyle.

Warm homes, regular use of antibiotics and processed or exotic foods in our diets all seem to encourage allergy.

In contrast, an early exposure to viral infections, good enzymes in the bowel and living near farm animals all seem to help prevent allergy development.

A quiet night?

In the past, many parents have shied away from inviting Chloe for sleepovers.

Tracey is one mum prepared to take on the responsibility and Vicki gives her some vital training in administering the adrenaline shot should the worst happen.

Chloe and friends at a sleepover
Chloe gets her first taste of independence at a sleepover

The greatest fear is that Chloe will vomit in her sleep and subsequently choke - this has happened before.

With a store of nut free goodies Vicki has purchased, the girls settle in for the evening.

Unfortunately in the middle of the night Vicki's worst fear is realised as Tracey telephones to inform her that Chloe has been sick.

Luckily Chloe was awake at the time and was in no danger.

Despite this minor set-back, the sleepover is a success

"It was a big step and we've done it" says Vicki.

"She is getting more independent and we know we can do it again."

Chloe may never be free of her allergies but her first sleepover is one step closer to living a full and happy life.

See also ...

Inside Out: North West
Local produce

On the rest of Inside Out
Buffalo milk
Food sensitivity

On bbc.co.uk
Health
Anaphylactic shock

On the rest of the web
Action against Allergy
Allergy UK

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

muriel simmons
Allergy is an increasing problem yet the Government are ignoring the fact that we do not have a proper allergy service in this country. The Select Committee for Health were highly critical in their recent report on the provision of allergy services and called on the Government to take action. The Government's reponse was to ignore the recommendations and play for time. Helping people with allergies falls back onto charities such as Allergy UK (www.allergyuk.org)and the Anaphyalxis Campaign who are both funded from voluntary contributions. Fortunately both organisations are able to provide very real and stable help to families like Chloes.



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