MORE and more people in the UK are suffering from allergies.

Allergies can include hayfever, dust mites (tiny bugs that live in house dust); mold spores; animal dander (flakes of scaly, dried skin) and dried saliva from your pets; and pollen from grass, ragweed, and trees.

There are also food allergies which the NHS defines as: “A food allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts unusually to specific foods. Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be very serious.”

Symptoms of a food allergy can affect different areas of the body at the same time. Some common symptoms include:

- an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears

- a raised itchy red rash (urticaria, or “hives”)

- swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue and roof of the mouth (angioedema)


The foods which most commonly cause an allergic reaction in adults are:

- peanuts

- tree nuts – such as walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds and hazelnuts

- fruits – such as apples and peaches

- fish

- shellfish – such as crab, lobster and prawns.

One of the most high profile allergy cases happened when Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, went into cardiac arrest on a flight to Nice after buying the baguette at Heathrow Airport in 2016.

The teenager had eaten an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette which, unbeknown to her, was not labelled as containing sesame seeds. She ate the baguette but then suffered a severe reaction to the seeds and unfortunately died.

Her parents, Nadim and Tanya, are campaigning for changes to allergen labelling becoming law “by the end of 2019”.

But what is the situation regarding allergies in Somerset? The County Gazette raised this issue with Heidi Seabert, Paediatric Specialist Dietitian and Clare Ewan Paediatric Diabetes Dietitian both part of the paediatric dietitian team at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. Here is a question and answer about allergies.

Q: What has been the rate in the increase of children and adults suffering from food allergies she or her team has treated in the past five years in Somerset?

A: With food allergy – we tend to mean those allergies that are IgE mediated (If you have an allergy, your immune system overreacts to an allergen by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE).), with immediate onset of symptoms following ingestion of allergen with symptoms including hives, swelling, breathing difficulties, and anaphylaxis.

These can be tested in allergy clinics using skin prick tests or RAST tests.

Q: Is there an apparent reason for the increase in food allergies in the county? Bad diet?

A: Allergy is not related to bad diet. The risk of allergy does increase with family history of a topic disease (eczema, asthma, food allergy and hayfever) but they are all interlinked i.e. you can get parents with asthma but their child has food allergy.

Q: What type of food allergies are patients suffering from in Somerset? What is the most common and the most rarest in Somerset?

A: The principal food allergens that we see are: peanut, tree nuts, soybean, cow’s milk, egg, fish, crustaceans, sesame and wheat. These are the most prevalent allergies nationally.

Q: What route does a patient go through to come to the team?

A: For children with food allergy they will be referred to allergy clinic here at Musgrove by their GP or other consultant paediatrician. They will be seen by a paediatric dietitian.

Q: How does the team go about telling people they have a food allergy and what do they need to do if they suffer an allergic reaction?

A: Within allergy clinic a full clinical history will be taken.

Skin prick test or RAST tests may be undertaken based on clinical history to help confirm allergy.

They will be given dietary advice on how to avoid the food allergen they are allergic to and also will be given an allergy management plan of how to manage any future allergic reactions should they occur.

Q: Does the team think a Natasha’s Law would make a big difference to children and adults to have all food labelled properly?

A: Any law that makes food labelling of allergens clearer on food labels is of great benefit to anyone with a food allergy.

Q: What advice do the team have to people about making sure they do not eat food which they have an allergy to?

A: Written information regarding how to follow a diet free of the offending food allergen is given to parents.

Q: What other type of allergies do the team help people with?

A: The paediatric allergy clinic will see a range of allergies – from food to inhaled allergens etc.

Useful websites for further information about allergies can be found at