It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. One moment their child is perfectly healthy. The next, they’ve stopped breathing and are turning blue. For many children, the merest hint of nut is all it takes to send them into anaphylactic shock. Food allergies are on the increase and the number of children affected has more than doubled in the past ten years. Yet simple precautions could significantly cut the death rate. This week’s documentary, When Food Kills is a wake up call to the rising danger of food allergies.
It started out as just a normal day for Sophia Neou. Her seven year old son was at play camp; fun and games were the order of the day. Then she received a phone call from a teacher crying, telling her “He’s turning blue and has stopped breathing.” The paramedic witnessed his rapid decline. “He developed shortness of breath. He got very anxious and then his airways started to swell and that’s when he passed out.” When the helicopter arrived William was within 30 seconds of dying but they managed to bring him back.
Other families are not so lucky. “There’s a big hole in our family and his name is Johnny,” laments Cheryl Whitburn. Her 15 year old son died six years ago after accepting some rice from friends that had satay sauce on it. The tiny amount of peanut in the sauce was all that was needed to trigger a reaction. While cases like this are rare, the incidents of severe food allergies are increasing. “In the past ten to twenty years, the incidence of severe food allergies has doubled or tripled,” stated Dr Alyson Kakakios from Westmead Children’s hospital.No one knows why allergies are on the increase. Scientists still don’t know exactly what causes them.