A mother whose daughter has nearly died after people did not take her allergy seriously has called for more awareness.
Two-year-old Elsie Lowe has such a severe egg allergy that she suffers a reaction just from being in the same room as an egg.
Her mum Emma Lowe, from Clifton near Preston, has learned to manage the condition, but little Elsie nearly died after eating contaminated food in a restaurant.
Now Emma is calling for businesses to do more training with their staff about customers who have severe allergies.
The UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20 per cent of the population affected by one or more allergic disorders.
Most of these allergies are far milder than Elsie’s, but there was a six-fold increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK from 1992 to 2012.
She started screaming, came out in blotches and lost consciousness
Emma, 36, who works as an accountant on a farm, said: “I don’t want my daughter to be isolated because of her allergies, but people need to know about the dangers.
“I don’t go the restaurants anymore because the last time we ate out she had such a severe reaction we had to call an ambulance as her throat started swelling up.
“I had spoken to the waitress and explained the issue and she said there was no egg in the food, but as soon as Elsie started eating she had a reaction.
“When I asked later, they said that Elsie’s meal had been on the hotplate next to a dish that had egg in it, and they must have touched – this is the kind of thing that people need to know about.
“Now whenever we go out I take a packed lunch for her, but several places have told us we can’t bring our own food and have told us to leave.
“Elsie wears an allergy bracelet and I think that if you can prove your child has a severe allergy, you should be allowed to bring your own food to a restaurant.
“If she can’t eat in a restaurant and we can’t take a packed lunch it means she can never go out, and I don’t want her to be isolated like that.”
Emma has four other children including twins Alfie and Arthur, who have Downs Syndrome and recently featured in 10 Puppies and Us on BBC Two, charting the progress of their first therapy dog.
Thirteen-year-old Harry and 12-year-old Ben were shown in the documentary helping with the care of their brothers.
Elsie is allergic to egg and some types of nuts, and the family are awaiting the results of further tests from Royal Preston Hospital’s allergy clinic to see if she has a fish allergy.
Her egg allergy was discovered during her first birthday celebrations, as Emma was making her a birthday cake.
Unbeknown to Emma, Elsie had an allergic reaction to the egg in the cake mix. She started screaming, came out in a number of blotches and lost consciousness.
“An ambulance was called and took her to hospital, where she made a full recovery.”
Emma said: “It was really scary to see my daughter’s reaction. You just don’t know anything is wrong until something like that happens.”
Tests are being completed to determine other allergies Elsie may have, as she has had reactions to the likes of fish fingers and homemade cottage pie.
Emma said: “Maybe it’s something to do with preservatives, E numbers, or additives. Until we find out it really worries me.
“People don’t grasp how severe it is for Elsie and our family.
“It’s restricting such a smart and bright girl from progressing in life.”
Elsie’s allergy begins with blotches on her skin, but rapidly progresses to her throat swelling, meaning that she could die if she does not receive treatment in time.
Emma said: “A lot of people don’t take allergies seriously. They think it’s just blotchy skin, or maybe an upset tummy, but Elsie could die every time she has a reaction.
“It’s a terrifying thing for a parent.”
She has also found some difficulty in finding a nursery which feels understands the severity of the little girl’s allergy.
She said: “I’ve had to take Elsie to work with me on the farm and it’s having an impact on my ability to get my work done. I still need to make a living.”
The 36-year-old mum has managed to get Elsie a place at Wrea Green Pre-School but is now having to go out of her way to get Elsie there.
She said: “I don’t think I have a choice but to go to Wrea Green but how do I know that a child hasn’t had an egg-based product and then touches something like a book that Elsie will go on to touch?
“Right now I don’t want to send her because of the uncertainty.
“I worry what will happen to her.
“Do I home school her or what?”
‘Too simple to say that we’re too clean’
Amena Warner, head of clinical services at Allergy UK, says: “Food allergies seem to be becoming more and more common in children with almost one in 12 young children suffering from a food allergy.
“They do tend to be much more common among children who come from families where other members have an allergy, babies who suffer from eczema are also at a higher risk of developing food allergy, in particular peanut allergy.
“Food allergy happens when the immune system becomes confused and triggers an inappropriate reaction to food proteins, which leads to the release of a chemicals including histamine.
“If a parent thinks their child may have had symptoms suggestive of a food allergy it is important to see a GP who will ask a series of questions to help determine if those symptoms may be caused by an allergy.
“Often allergic symptoms mirror those of other common childhood conditions. Further information on allergy and food specific fact sheets can be found at www.allergyuk.org.
“The hygiene hypothesis, the idea that being too clean in our homes is increasing the risk of allergic disease, is somewhat of an outdated ‘theory’.
“Good hygiene is fundamental in containing the spread of infectious disease, and it is too simple an explanation to say that allergies have increased because we are ‘too clean’.
“More recent evidence points to the role of the human microbiome. This has been termed the Old Friends Theory. The human body has 1 trillion microbes living in the gut, skin and airways, 10 times the number of its own cells, and its these microbes, that we have a symbiotic relationship with(they do us no harm), that help regulate the immune system.
“There are a lot of misconceptions around allergy. Some people live with the daily fear of having a life-threatening reaction and avoid many things out of their diet if they have not had prompt access to correct diagnosis and treatment.
“Raising awareness of allergy and the seriousness allergy is vital to help make life easier for people in the allergic community and to address the issue of a lack of specialists in allergy to deal with this growing problem.”