'Nut allergy reactions can be fatal': UAE mother shares horror story after son nearly dies

It is important to have a comprehensive approach to minimise exposure and ensure safety, say experts

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Image used for illustrative purpose
Image used for illustrative purpose

Published: Sun 23 Jun 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 24 Jun 2024, 3:22 PM

Sajitha Hyder has always known that her son, Daniyal, has had several allergies since he was a baby. It was only last week, however, when the 11-year-old Daniyal unknowingly ingested peanuts for the first time and went into an anaphylactic shock.

“We had ordered chilli chicken from a new Chinese restaurant and ate it for lunch,” said the Abu Dhabi resident. “My son ate it and he was totally fine. He attended an online class then went out to play. When he came back a little later, he said that his asthma was acting up. He used his inhaler but I could see that he was turning red in the face.”


Luckily for Sajitha, her sister arrived almost immediately as Daniyal started experiencing difficulties. “My sister has two children who have severe allergy issues and she insisted that we immediately take Daniyal to the hospital,” Sajitha said. “On the way to the ER, my brother-in-law noticed that my son was having a hard time breathing, so he immediately administered the EpiPen.”

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An EpiPen is a measured dose of epinephrine, a medication that can help decrease your body's allergic reaction. It is administered in the form of an injection.

By the time the family arrived at the hospital, Daniyal's condition appeared to be deteriorating rapidly. “The hospital staff said that if we had not given him the EpiPen, he might not have survived the incident,” she said. “It was a very scary incident. As Daniyal had outgrown many of his allergies, including that of gluten and milk, we had relaxed a bit and we haven't been as careful as we should have been. The incident was an eye-opener for us.”

Daniyal is one of the hundreds of people who have an almost fatal allergy to nuts and other food items. Last week, Love Island star Jack Fowler said he had a severe nut allergy reaction leaving him unable to breathe after eating a curry with cashews on an Emirates flight.

Extremely careful

According to experts, it is important for those with nut allergies to have a comprehensive approach to minimise exposure and ensure safety.

Peanuts, which are actually legumes and not nuts, are one of the eight food or food groups which should be disclosed in labels as they could cause allergic reactions. They could cause severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, which “can be life-threatening” according to Dr. Sabah Omer Elkhalifa, a family medicine specialist at Burjeel Day Surgery Centre in Al Dhahir.

Dr. Sabah Omer Elkhalifa. Photo: Supplied
Dr. Sabah Omer Elkhalifa. Photo: Supplied

“People with deadly nut allergies can manage their condition by recognising nut allergy symptoms so they can take prompt action if an allergic reaction happens,” she said. “They should take antihistamines to address mild symptoms such as itching or swelling and carry an epinephrine injector if they have a severe allergy to treat anaphylaxis immediately.”

Challenges

According to Sajitha, eating out can get challenging because some institutions aren't informed enough about allergies.

“Once we went to a restaurant where the waiter insisted that a dessert was completely nut-free but upon checking, I found Nutella in it,” she said. “When I asked him about it, he said he didn’t know that the spread was made from hazelnut. At another restaurant, the chef insisted on personally cooking and serving a dish to us to ensure that it was allergen-free. So it is quite a hit-and-miss when it comes to eating out.”

In most cases, it is better for those with fatal allergies to do their due diligence when eating outside, says an expert. “They need to check food labels and ask detailed questions about ingredients and food preparation methods when eating out,” said Neeta Jhaveri, functional medicine practitioner and health coach at Wellth. “They should also prepare meals at home using fresh, uncontaminated ingredients. They must use separate utensils, cutting boards, and appliances for foods that may or may not contain nuts to ensure safety.”

Neeta Jhaveri. Photo: Supplied
Neeta Jhaveri. Photo: Supplied

According to Neeta, there are several other challenges including financial concerns, feeling left out in social settings, nutritional concerns, and difficulties in school and workplace due to nut allergies. “Managing severe nut allergies primarily relies on strict avoidance of allergens and preparedness for accidental exposures,” she said. “This can be quite challenging for families but it is important to never let their guard down as this could prove fatal.”

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