Read about one of our patients Polly Friedman, and her experience at Southampton Children's allergy clinic.
Teenager Polly Friedman has spent most of her life avoiding a wide variety of foods to prevent having an allergic reaction.
The 17-year-old was allergic to dairy products, eggs, all kinds of nuts, kiwi fruit and had a slight intolerance to white fish. She also suffered from eczema and asthma. But thanks to Southampton's children's allergy team she has discovered that she has outgrown most of her allergies and now only has to avoid peanuts and kiwi fruit.
"Polly was only about five months old when she had a reaction to milk in a cauliflower cheese meal for babies," said her mum Caroline. "Her whole face swelled up, her hands were red and itchy and then she threw up. It terrified the life out of me. "Fortunately the friend I was with knew exactly what was happening as she had allergies herself," she said.
Over the next few years the extent of Polly's allergies were discovered. The family, from Berkshire, were also told Polly should avoid other possible allergens such as seafood.
"Her asthma and eczema were under control but at that time there was no advice about allergies so we just avoided everything that might cause a problem. I was very wary about anything she ate," said Caroline. "Her diet had a considerable effect on planning meals for the rest of the family."
However, life for the Friedmans was to change five years ago when Polly was referred to Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust's children's allergy clinic. A whole series of skin prick tests, blood tests and food challenges revealed that her allergies were decreasing.
"It was so nice knowing that I could drink milk and eat chocolate. It is easy to avoid nuts, but milk and eggs are harder," said Polly. She says although she didn't let the extent of her allergies get to her, life is easier now that she can go out to eat with friends and doesn't have to worry so much about what she chooses.
"The nursing staff here are fantastic," she said. "They talk you through all the tests and tell you exactly what to expect." Her mum Caroline agrees adding: "I was very reassured by how controlled it was. Coming to a clinic like this and assessing how allergic you are makes all the difference. It would have been very useful to have had this around when she was younger to know what the level of her allergies was."