My name is Matthew. I am an 11-year-old boy and I enjoy playing rugby, doing Judo, climbing and reading. As a baby, at twenty weeks old I was covered in eczema and I did not grow. So I was sent to Evelina London and tested for allergies.
I used to be allergic to lots of things; Kiwi, soya, wheat, egg, peanuts, milk, dust mites, grass and trees. Now, my main allergies are egg, peanuts, dust mites, grass and trees. I have become less allergic to the other things as I have grown older. Finding food to eat was quite hard when I was younger. Wheat for example was tricky – normal wheat-free breads contain eggs, which I couldn’t have, and the special prescription bread was like sandpaper and gave me tummy problems. Now, I only really eat white bread.
Allergies are where your body rejects or almost dislikes certain foods or things and has reactions when you eat them or come in contact with them. I have to be very careful and noticing of my surroundings. You have to know that everything can be a danger, some foods have things added that you wouldn’t expect.
I don’t like having allergies, being different and always having to worry about keeping myself safe, but I know there are people with bigger problems. It is also really annoying having to carry my Med Pac and emergency medicines with me as it is big, but I know I have to, to keep myself safe.
When I have a reaction it can start in different ways; I may cough, itch or my eyes may swell up. When it is serious, I don’t feel right. My mouth may also swell up and itch... then I have to have the courage to do something about it or tell someone to keep myself safe.
I have to take Montelukast and Cetirizine every day. Montelukast helps stop me coughing and helps me sleep. Cetirizine helps with my allergies and scratching and makes my reactions less serious. Every year, I have to go to hospital to be tested. They give me a skin prick test and I have to wait for a while with a really itchy arm. Eventually, they measure the size of the bumps on my arms to see how big the reactions are and to compare them to last year.
It is very hard balancing keeping me safe with being embarrassed and drawing attention to me for being different.
School trips and weekends away often needcareful planning, and again, I have to trust total strangers to provide food for me when they could accidentally give me something that could cause a severe life threatening reaction.
I have been in many difficult situations. For example, on my rugby tour, someone at the front of the coach had protein bars which contained peanuts. I knew because I could smell them, it’s like I have a superpower. Our school is nut-free, but sometimes people don’t realise it’s not just that I can’t eat peanuts, I can’t be around them.
My siblings have to cope too; we rarely have eggs and nuts in our house. At parties, I don’t have cake and have to refuse some of the food. People are worried about me as they don’t want to put me at risk, so are nervous inviting me to play at their house. I am also anxious a lot of the time as I have to trust people I don’t know and hope they understand. I am scared as I never know when I will have a reaction even when I have done my best to keep myself safe.
I would tell others to never give up even though it is exhausting and tiring trying to educate the people around you. I am making a PowerPoint slide show on allergies to present to my class and maybe even the whole school. I was asked to do this by my head teacher.
I love doing research. I have written a 2,500 word essay on Alexander the Great, and in year two on my own, I did a presentation on our topic – frogs (my Dad checked it). I am currently writing a PowerPoint on the history of medicine. I also love hard challenging maths problems. I am in year 6 but I enjoy doing GCSE questions and finding out how to solve them.
Evelina London has been an important part of my life. I am now a tall 11-year-old, with not much obvious eczema unless I eat too many foods that I used to be very allergic to (eg milk).
My favourite person at Evelina London is Dr Adam Fox. He has always helped with my problems and is quick to respond to questions from my mum, who is a nurse there and used to have allergies too, so she understands.