My allergies and me: The impact of living with an allergy

Over the last few years food allergies have seemed increasingly prevalent. It is now thought around 3% of us have one.

For most, reactions can be mild but for some they can cause an extreme reaction called anaphylaxis. This type of reaction can be fatal.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis:

  • feeling lightheaded or faint.
  • breathing difficulties– such as fast, shallow breathing
  • wheezing
  • a fast heartbeat
  • clammy skin
  • confusion and anxiety
  • collapsing or losing consciousness

William Hulme

Six-year-old William has severe food allergies and can’t eat nuts, mustard, flaxseeds or sesame.

His mum Stephanie is constantly weighing up the risks of him having an allergic reaction.

He had his first at the age of three, after drinking a smoothie at a coffee shop.

”We had a smoothie which he’d had a couple of times before,” she said.

”He said my tummy’s hurting. so we were like, don’t worry about it, we’ll get in the car, take you home and it was in the car he started becoming unresponsive.

“We got him home and he just vomited as soon as we walked in through the door. It was when we took off his clothes that we saw the hives and took him straight to hospital”

While allergies appear to be increasing, experts don’t completely understand why.

There’s a number of different theories why allergies are increasing and probably a few different things interplaying together.

One of the best known ones is called the hygiene hypothesis which probably isn’t named quite right because being unhygienic is not what we want.

It’s more around exposure to various infections and some harmless bacteria as well. What we’d encourage people and children to do is go outside, get messy, get muddy and enjoy yourself and be exposed to things.


Stephanie Hulme

William’s mum carries an adrenaline auto-injector everywhere they go in case he has a reaction. His allergies have a big impact on their everyday life.

”We’ve always got to plan ahead,” she said.

”We have to make sure we’re carrying the medications, if we’re going on a long trip then we’ve always got to think about the snacks, where we can have food and make sure we’ve got the right hand wipes with us.

It’s a lot of planning ahead but it’s something that we’re getting used to now”

Despite having to be careful what he eats, William takes it all in his stride. It is what his mum describes as a ”positive outlook on every part of his life including his allergies.”

His positive outlook is clear to see.

It doesn’t make me sad having allergies.

It means you’re unique, so it is good to be unique so that’s why I feel happy about it.


Riley Thomas

For most of thirteen-year-old Riley’s life he could eat whatever he wanted.

That was until two years ago when, after eating food containing peanuts, he suddenly went into anaphylactic shock.

”I couldn’t breathe and my legs collapsed,” he said.

“There’s a tingling sensation down your arm. Your throat is really tight, and your chest.”

Riley had developed a life-threatening peanut allergy.

His parents heard about a promising private treatment taking place at a clinic in Cambridge. They treat severe peanut allergies by prescribing tiny amounts of actual peanuts.

Peanut dose

Dr Zaraquiza Zolkipli is a consultant at the clinic.

We do immunotherapy or it’s also called desensitisation. We are treating patients with peanut allergy by giving them increasing amounts of actual peanut to ingest to eat in order to encourage them to develop tolerance towards it.


Riley’s treatment is being carried out over two years, when the amount of peanut he’s given will gradually increase.

It is something that is done under strict medical supervision.

The treatment is not yet available under the NHS and is costing Riley’s parents over £16,000.

The clinic are planning to introduce more patients to a clinical trial in the hope that one day it will be available for free for everyone.

For Riley, it offers peace of mind for the future.

Later on in my life I will be cautious but I won’t have that dreadful thought in the back of my head. It is really reassuring, I feel a lot safer.

  • You can see more on Wales This Week: My Allergies and Me, Thursday 14th March at 8:30pm on ITV Cymru Wales.

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