When my son had his peanut allergy test a couple of months ago, I was informed that ‘the clinic would be in touch’. The test was carried out by a paediatric nurse, supervised by a consultant paediatrician. They are experts at caring for children, they are not experts at allergies, and I still had some questions to ask. But it’s OK, I would ask the clinic.
Well, the clinic has been in touch.
And they want to see my son again in four years. FOUR YEARS?! But I have questions to ask!
Should we avoid things marked ‘may contain nuts?’ Could his reaction be worse if he swallowed more peanut? Could his reaction be worse if there was a delay in giving him Piriton? Should he have one of those epipen things people keep telling me about? Is he at risk from any other sort of nut? And, fundamentally, is there any risk of him stopping breathing?
In four years, my son will be a very different boy. He will be 14 years old. He will have started his GCSE courses. He will be independent and going out to eat with his friends. I have to be realistic and accept that he and his friends may be drinking. So how is he going to stay safe?
Before he had his test, when we had merely diagnosed him ourselves, we were given a set of instructions, to be shared with school, Scouts, wherever, of what to do in the case of a reaction.
The gist of it is – four spoonfuls of Piriton, don’t leave him alone and call me. And if he stops breathing or starts to lose consciousness, call an ambulance (and don’t leave him alone AND call me).
That’s OK for a 10 year old, but what about a 14 year old?
It would be very easy for a 14 year old, out with his friends, wanting to fit in and behaving a little bit recklessly, to ingest the sort of tiny amount of peanut that could cause a reaction. And when that happens, who is going to be there to administer the four spoons of Piriton, keep a close eye on him and call me?
Or are they just going to be too busy rolling around laughing at his Voldemort-like face to worry about giving him the Piriton and phoning his mum? Phoning his mum?! I mean, how uncool is THAT for a 14 year old?! And is he realistically going to be carrying a bottle of Piriton with him, anyway? He’s a boy! He’s not going to have a handbag.
Is it too much to hope that he grows up sensible with sensible friends? Because, in my most irrational thoughts, it could be the difference between life and death.