Fear of delayed (biphasic) nut allergy reaction

Unless you have a child with dangerous allergies, you just can’t understand the almost paralysing fear when they have a reaction to an allergen.  Fjord is allergic to eggs, some antibiotics, bees, pollens, dogs, yeast, peanuts and more but worst of all and most dangerous is his tree nut allergy, and the worst reaction he ever had was to hazelnuts.  It is frighting to watch him in the throes of an allergic episode, his lips and eyes swell, he vomits and seems to choke.  Since he was about 3 he has known to ask if foods contain egg or nuts before eating them.  He now (aged 10) reads labels himself to check.  It is a few years since he last had accidental ingestion of nuts.


Now for the 2nd time this year it seems that a change in ingredients led to allergen exposure.  At Easter Pick ‘n Pay changed their marshmallow Easter eggs which were previously egg free and now if my mother-in-law is correct Cadbury fingers did not previously contain nuts.  She is certain that a few years ago she bought them for Fjord, he loved them and ate them with no problem.  Now visiting us she bought them for him.  When you have an allergic child you learn off by heart what foods your child cannot eat,  when I buy anything new I read the label and check all ingredients but after that, knowing what is safe or not I don’t need to do that every time.  Name any common product on our supermarket shelves and I will tell you if they contain egg or nuts.  I can’t blame my mother-in-law for this accident, over and above being sure that they were OK in the past.   I would not have suspected egg or nuts in the shortbread type biscuit and assumed that it was coated with only  milk chocolate there’s no red flag word like ‘praline’, it seems odd to have nuts in this product.

For those reading this after doing a search along the lines of delayed allergic reaction or biphasic reaction prevention.  I will recount what happened on Tuesday.  Fjord was home sick with a mild cold / flu virus.  He took a spoon of Docsed which helps with cough and cold symptoms, (it contains an antihistamine) when he woke.He wasn’t very ill but I believe in keeping sick children home to prevent them from spreading illness and it’s important to rest.  We sat on the couch and watched a Harry Potter movie.     My mother-in-law made tea and brought it to us along with Cadbury fingers, we had 2 each in quick succession.  Straight after the 2nd one Fjord asked what is in them, his throat was itching.  Looking at the wrapper I saw to my horror that they contain hazelnuts and tree nuts.  I immediately gave him 2 spoons of allergex.  This was probably the most mild reaction that he’s ever had to nut exposure, most likely because he had an antihistamine in his system this was good but also bad.  Because he did not vomit, he did not get the nut out of his system.  I remembered reading a horrible story about a child dying from a delayed allergic reaction.  A quick look online indicated that about 20% of cases of anaphylaxis are delayed reactions.   It seems that with allergies in each case you simply don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with, you don’t know how dangerous the symptoms will be, you just don’t know.  You can’t make assumptions or take chances, that can mean the difference between life and death.  Hearing your child ask if he’s going to die (while the same terrifying thought is going through your own mind) is traumatic beyond words.

Although the Allergex eased Fjord’s symptoms, I took him to the doctor.  She was also wary of the dangers of a delayed reaction.  She prescribed Celestamine tablets to be taken 3 times a day for 3 days and assured me that this would protect him against a delayed allergic reaction.  Today is day 3 and he has not had a problem.  His nose is troubling him terribly and he has a cough but I’m fairly sure that this is as a result of his cold / flu.  On Tues night I had minimal sleep as I got up several times to check on him.

Out of interest I asked Cadbury SA on Twitter if the ingredients of the chocolate fingers has changed, if they respond I’ll update this post with their reply.  I don’t have a gripe with Cadbury, of the 3 main chocolate brands in South Africa they are my favourite.   The nuts are listed under the ingredients so they’ve done nothing wrong.  I do however wish that in cases where it’s not obvious like a slab of hazelnut chocolate it could be potentially life saving to print somewhere obvious on the front of product packaging, something along the lines of “contains nuts”.

UPDATE – I have not yet heard from Cadbury but on further searching it seems that different countries may have different ingredients in a product with the same name but slightly different packaging.  That is a recipe for potential disaster.  I looked up Cadbury fingers and came across this link to a current Tesco ad in UK, their ingredients are different and while it says “may contain nuts” there are no nuts listed under the ingredients as in the case of the ones bought here.

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  1. Dear Sula,

    I understand your fear and paranoia as we have similar issues with one of my brothers twin.
    It is disheartening when ingredients are changed in treats that kids and adults enjoy.

    I would hope that the famous brands like Cadbury and Beacon would consider the difficulties faces when they ADD
    egg and nuts in their products.

    Am glad Fjord is well again.

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