University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
George 'G' Morrow

Meet the patient: 'G' Morrow

Spilling the beans

George, who we call 'G' was about one when he was diagnosed with a severe legume allergy.

I discovered it one tea time after serving a chicken casserole containing pretty much all the things he was allergic to - lentils, broad beans and peas.

About a minute after he had swallowed a teaspoonful I found myself calling for an ambulance.

Testing at Southampton General Hospital followed and I quickly learnt the hard, cold facts about anaphylaxis.

An emergency bag to go everywhere with him containing his epipen, antihistamine, mask and inhaler and a well rehearsed drill for "What do do when…." was put in place at home and at G's nursery.

I began to shop online so I could take time to look at food labels as pea protein, flour, husks and chickpea flour often pops up in seemingly unlikely places from biscuits to sausages, ham and pate.

With vigilance we were sailing smoothly along with no major incidents - only having had to give G antihistamine after once sitting at a table in a cafe when he began itching and wheezing.

It turned out despite it being thoroughly cleaned by the cafe and me the person who had sat there earlier had eaten some peas.

With G about to start school in September, I had started to draw up plans with the school and had asked for a portion of their baked beans to test as a precaution.

G has always eaten baked beans, of every brand, with no effects, so getting him to try the brand from school was not a worry.

After about three teaspoons at teatime, he said he didn't want any more, was promptly sick and had a few hives on his inner arms

He then had no further symptoms and spent the rest of the evening playing pirates and Batman as normal.

12.30am, exactly eight hours later I was woken by an odd, stifled scream from his bedroom.

I rushed in to find him cold, shaking and struggling to breathe.

At first I thought he was going to vomit, but once in the bathroom, and the fog of sleep had lifted from my head, I realised it was far more serious.

He was shaking, his face and lips were swollen, he was trying to draw breath and was clearly terrified.

Shouting to my sleeping husband for the 'meds' bag I began our emergency drill and asked him to call for an ambulance.

Popping G onto my lap I tried to reassure him and said I had some medicine which would soon make him feel better.

Clicking the epipen into his thigh and counting "10 hippopotamuses", I was so, so relieved when after being silent, apart from a rasping wheeze for breath, for the entire time, on the count of 10 he cried out "Ow".

Taking him still shaking and unable to speak to our bedroom I cuddled him tight with his favourite teddy, and reassured him that he would soon feel better and help was on its way.

A paramedic rapidly arrived followed by an ambulance.

After getting him stable for some time with some oxygen, to my amazement he began chatting excitedly to everyone scrambled off the bed and set about showing them his favourite swords and pirates, before we headed off to hospital for the night.

It turns out he had a biphasic/secondary reaction.

I felt absolutely awful that I had put him through such a frightening experience.

Meeting my husband at the hospital the next morning, I repeated the words from the numerous doctors we'd seen overnight, "well done for acting quickly and knowing what to do, you saved his life".

We squeezed G tight, so grateful it was all over and both broke down in tears.

The fear of a reaction never goes and it can at times feel like a ticking bomb, particularly as it's something no-one has every heard of.

But with our guards up at all times, and the hospital providing us with ongoing support, we will hopefully keep a handle on the allergy and prevent further reactions.

Written by Indy Morrow

See also

External links

Our comment

G has a rare and severe type of food allergy. The allergy clinic has skilled staff who are able to confirm your child's allergies and give the advice that you need to keep your child safe. Although food allergies can feel scary, a good understanding of their food allergies and practical advice can make all the difference to you and your family.

Dr Michel Erlewyn-Lajeunesse
Consultant paediatrician

Referral to an allergy specialist for a good allergy diagnosis is key to ensuring successful management of a food allergy. George was fortunate to be referred to a centre of excellence such as Southampton. George’s mum has already highlighted some key messages for successful management; carrying emergency medication at all times, without exception, making sure it’s “in date” and that you, friends and family are familiar with how to use it and scrutinising food labels for your problem allergen/s. The Anaphylaxis Campaign has useful advice and tips on its website and also has an online training course for individuals and parents and carers of children with severe allergies to help manage the condition. 

Moira Austin, information manager
The Anaphylaxis Campaign