The first time Cal tried peanut butter he was two. It was his first ever contact with nuts and he spat out the food as soon as it hit his tongue. Despite not ingesting it, his lips swelled up within seconds, his face broke out in hives and became red and itchy.
We dashed straight to the hospital, terrified he was experiencing anaphylactic shock. We've all heard stories of children whose throats close up from nuts or shellfish. One of my brothers suffers from anaphylaxis if he eats anything containing brazil nuts and I knew that unconsciousness and even death are very real possibilities.
The good people at A&E administered antihistamines, which immediately eased the swelling. A week later, we took Cal to Dr Paul Carson, an allergy specialist at Slievemore Clinic (www.slievemore-clinic.com). Tests showed that Cal was not only allergic to peanuts but had even worse reactions to brazil and walnuts.
We were delighted to learn that his reaction was not anaphylactic as his creche informed us that he wouldn't be welcome any longer if he needed to carry an Anapen -- a device carried by allergy suffers which is filled with a shot of adrenaline that can be auto-injected to reverse anaphylactic shock. We never found out if the creche's policy was because of insurance or health and safety reasons, but we were far from impressed.
At my son's school, his teacher knows about his allergy and never allows him to eat any sweets brought in by other children until I have seen them first. There is another pupil with serious anaphylaxis and notes were sent home asking us all to avoid sending nuts to school. Now, I'm sure it isn't deliberate, but I know plenty of kids in Cal's class are still munching sandwiches spread with Nutella, so I imagine it's going on in other classrooms too!
The good news is that 20pc of children grow out of allergies, and I have a hunch Cal could be on the way.
We caught him absent-mindedly about to scoff a handful of peanuts at our neighbours and he had zero reaction after spitting them out.
Outgrowing the allergy wouldn't just be great news for him, but would mean I could start including nuts in my homemade banana bread again. It just isn't the same without them!