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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2007, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
'The health staff knew nothing'
Allergy services are poor and advice confusing, a House of Lords committee says. Many families say they have struggled to cope when their children developed allergies.

peanuts
William is allergic to peanuts

The signs had been there for months.

William Chapman was underweight when he was a baby and when he touched a peanut he came out in rash.

But it was not until he developed a severe reaction and breathing difficulties after eating scrambled egg at just over a year old that he was sent to an allergy specialist.

Even then it took eight months for the Chapman family, from Hertfordshire, to see an allergy specialist at St Mary's Hospital in London.

William was finally diagnosed with a range of food and environmental allergies including peanut, egg, dog, dust mite and tree pollen.

We have had to take so many precautions. For a while we couldn't even have eggs in the house
Sarah Chapman

His mother, Sarah, 41, said: "The GPs and health visitors we saw just did not know anything about allergies.

"We were even sent to a sleep clinic at one point as his allergic reactions were keeping him awake at night.

"Once we got diagnosed and we started finding out more about allergies, health visitors started referring local families to us. It is that bad."

Cautious action

Even after diagnosis the difficulties did not stop for William, who is now 11.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We are talking about serious medical conditions that can kill you. Please try and be more understanding of genuine sufferers
Kathy, Caerphilly

Ms Chapman, who also has another three children, none of whom have allergies, says: "We have had to take so many precautions. For a while we couldn't even have eggs in the house.

"When we go on holiday we have to check where the local doctors and hospitals are and take translation cards.

"And when he goes to parties I have had to visit the venues and check things out as well as talk to the parents hosting them.

"It is getting easier now because William understands it more so he can take precautions himself."

Ms Chapman believes there are good services available, but they are too few and far between.

"I don't know what we would have done if it wasn't for the help from St Mary's.

"William has started to do food challenges which involve him eating little bits of food he is allergic to to help overcome the allergy.

"He can now eat cooked egg. I remember the first time he ate a quiche, I sat there watching him, it was amazing."


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