A six-year-old boy’s family have been warned his nut allergy is so strong just the smell of them could kill him.
Lucas Tomlinson has an allergy so severe he breaks out in a whole body rash and struggles to breathe if he goes near a nut. As a drastic measure to protect the boy, whose allergy is one of the worst in the country, his school has banned parents from allowing any snacks and meals containing nuts to be brought in.
A care plan has also been compiled with teachers at St Barnabas CE Primary School, Darwen, his parents, and school nurses to minimise any risk.
And all staff have also been trained how to recognise early signs of anaphylactic shock, caused by a severe allergic reaction, and give life-saving treatment.
When Lucas was diagnosed, doctors tested his tolerance to allergies and discovered he had a RAST (radioallergosorbent) measure of 511. The normal range is 0 to 50.
Dr Tom Smith, Lancashire Telegraph columnist, said: “Anything over 100 means a person is dangerously sensitive to an allergy. Lucas’ score is very high.
“The school is taking sensible and correct steps and precautions. It’s not much of a sacrifice for the children to make for the sake of their school fellow.”
Lucas’s mum, Leanne Glover, 26, said: “His allergy is airborne. If he smells nuts his eyes start stinging, he goes bright red and struggles to breath.
“The doctors say he cannot eat anything that says it was produced in a factory where nuts are handled, or may contain traces of specific nuts, such as peanuts or almonds.
“Even food in packaging which says may contain traces of nuts, which is almost everything, carries a risk for him.”
She said Lucas first had a reaction aged 18 months when he was near a bowl of cashew nuts.
Leanne, from Darwen, said: “He went red from head to toe and we had to call an ambulance because he was struggling to breathe.”
He was diagnosed after having an anaphylactic shock from eating a raisin from a fruit and nut selection aged three.
Lucas’ mum said: “Allergies can be fatal. People don’t realise how seriously an allergy can affect someone and until you see the effect people just assume sufferers are being overcautious.
“Lucas is very aware of the consequences because he knows how it feels to go into anaphylactic shock. He is very cautious and checks if there’s nuts in things before eating them.
“Unlike some conditions, there are no sections for people with nut allergies in supermarkets. Nuts are in almost everything. I spend most of my time reading the back of food packaging.
“Lucas has packed lunches at school so I know what he is eating.
“But it’s hard to leave him at school every day, even though the staff are very supportive.
“If he has an attack he has to have an anti-histamine tablet immediately, and he has an asthma inhaler in case his airways start to close. He has two epi pens at home and at school, but thankfully we have never had to use them.”
Epipens contain a single dose of epinephrine, which is injected into the thigh.
Alison Howarth, headteacher at St Barnabas CE Primary School, said allergies were a growing concern in schools and taken very seriously.
She said: “More and more children are suffering from allergies.
“Nut allergies are dominant, but it’s much wider than that. Other pupils are allergic to latex gloves, eggs, plasters, penicillin and plums.”
Roger Eakhurst, assistant director responsible for school meals in Lancashire, said a care plan was written for each child with an allergy.
“Our staff sit down with the school and the family, and sometimes a dietician, to find out how serious the allergy is and what can be done.
“We also work with the school to carry out an assessment to pinpoint the risks and when they’re likely to occur.
“We do not use nuts as a basic ingredient. However, ingredients that come into our kitchens often carry a disclaimer that they may carry slight traces of nuts, for example, which makes it impossible to give an absolute guarantee to those pupils who have the most severe allergies.”
Allergies and symptoms
- An allergy is a sensitivity to a normally harmless substance.
- Mild allergies like hay fever are very common. Symptoms include red eyes, itchiness, runny nose, eczema, hives, or an asthma attack.
- Severe allergies can cause life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis.
- In the past 10 years the number of children with peanut allergies has nearly doubled.
- One in 70 UK children are thought to suffer from peanut allergy.
- Around 80 per cent of children diagnosed will have the allergy for life.
- Peanuts and tree nuts (such as almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts) are the foods most likely to provoke a reaction.
- The initial reaction is swelling and itching of the mouth and throat. A raised itchy rash then spreads over the whole body, blood pressure drops and the victim collapses and loses consciousness.
- Anaphylaxis in adults tend to affect blood circulation, with loss of pressure and shock.
- Children tend to develop wheezing and fatal airway obstruction.