The recent cases of two young girls who both tragically died after consuming foodstuffs they were allergic to illustrates the potentially deadly nature of a food allergy.

For children with a severe allergy and their parents, any meal choice can literally be Russian roulette, with endless scouring of labels on the back of food items.

Sometimes common pastimes, often taken for granted, such as dinner out, or attending a birthday party, are simply too risky to contemplate.

However results from a recent study carried out in Europe and the US, with some participants in London, demonstrated that children with severe allergy to peanuts could be desensitised over a period.

At the start of the trial, these children were unable to tolerate even one tenth of a peanut.

Yet by gradually increasing their exposure to peanut protein, two thirds were able to manage up to two whole peanuts by the end of the study.

While this may not sound a lot, peanuts and their traces are literally everywhere, often in products you might not even have thought of.

Furthermore, a product that claims not to contain peanut may still have residues if processed in the same place as peanut-containing products.

So for a child successfully desensitised, who accidentally eats something with peanut in it, it could be the difference between life and death.

Diagnoses of peanut allergy have doubled in the past 20 years, with an estimated 100,000 children affected in the UK.

Unlike some other allergies, for example Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy, many sufferers will not grow out of it, with any risk of a reaction being lifelong.

An allergic reaction is different from an intolerance, in that although the side effects of an intolerance can be quite unpleasant, there is no risk to life.

In an allergic reaction, the immune system is activated and a chemical called histamine is released. Features include a nettle rash-type skin reaction, with tingling lips and an itchy throat.

At its worst, the person’s airway swells to the point where they cannot breathe with a drastic drop in blood pressure and collapse. This is known as anaphylactic shock and is a medical emergency.

If you feel you or your child may have a food allergy, it is important for you to discuss this with your routine GP, who will likely refer you to a specialist as appropriate.

Testing for allergies involves skin prick tests with the presumed allergen.

I would avoid any home testing kits as none are currently approved, and indeed may produce misleading results.

As well as advice on avoiding the substance that precipitates your allergy, you may find that antihistamines help with some of the milder side effects.

Make sure you and those around you know how to use your adrenaline pen in case of a severe reaction. Always carry both your pens, because if the first does not work within five minutes the second will need to be given. They are no use at all if they are anywhere but with you.



I’ve heard that there is a lot of hand, foot and mouth disease going round. Is there anything I can do to stop my three year old getting it?


Hand foot and mouth disease is a viral illness. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, as well as being found in your faeces. Both children and adults can get it. It starts like most viral illnesses with a raised temperature and feeling unwell, before you develop ulcers in your mouth and then blisters on the hands and feet. As a viral illness, antibiotics are not required, and it usually clears up in seven-ten days. Basic hygiene methods may reduce the chance of catching it. Reasons to seek medical advice would be if you were unsure of the diagnosis, if your child was in a lot of pain, or they were struggling to drink enough fluids. Otherwise it should hopefully pass of its own and there is no real reason to keep your child away from nursery or school if they are otherwise well, even if blisters are still present.


My 14 year old daughter is very sporty but recently she has had a lot of back pain. I thought she was just overdoing it at first, but should I be more worried?


Although increasingly common as we get older, most children do not report back pain. If your daughter finds that pain is made worse by exercise and relieved by rest, then it is likely that she is suffering mechanical back pain, and changing or perhaps reducing her exercise regime may help. Symptoms and signs that would point to something more worrying would be pain that is there all the time, and getting worse, particularly any pain that wakes the individual from sleep. Significant weight loss would also be a concerning feature, as would symptoms of fever. For your peace of mind a review with your normal GP would be advisable.

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Dr Uddin’s advice is provided in good faith and in accordance with currently accepted evidence. However, this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of a GP, or other qualified health provider, regarding a medical condition.