real life

Blue Wiggle: The snack that almost killed my son

Anaphylaxis?

Before my little boy Antonio had his first anaphylactic reaction, I knew little of it and could not even spell the word!  Now our family always carry an ‘Epinephrine auto –injector’ wherever we go and we’re always examining food labels for allergens that may send our precious little boy into shock.

But I am getting way ahead of myself. Let me take you back about 4 years to the day that changed our families lives forever. I'll never forget it.

I was on tour with The Wiggles (I spend over half the year away touring around the world, singing songs with three other Wiggles, a dinosaur, an Octopus, a dancing 6-foot dog and a pirate who tickles people! Ahh my life!). We were in New Zealand – you know the country that sadly (always!) beats Australia at Rugby. We were driving in between venues, looking at the great New Zealand sights. My mobile phone starts ringing and being the responsible driver that I am, I pull over and answer it.

It was my wife Miki. She was crying, talking inside an ambulance. She said, "They are taking Antonio to hospital!" My blood ran cold. I could hear her panic.My mind starte racing. Had he fallen over? Broken his arm? What could it be? Miki quickly told me he was eating a peanut butter sandwich as he had for the past 10 months or so when his breathing became very shallow like he was choking. He started scratching his chest and said it was hurting him. His lips swelled as did around his eyes and hives had started appearing on his body. Antonio became listless and his quick-thinking aunty Maureen called the ambulance and called Miki who was at the supermarket. 

Antonio was quickly taken in the ambulance, joined by Miki. He was given a shot from the Epinephrine auto -injector by the ambulance officer, taken to hospital and after 4 hours was discharged and allowed to go home.

Tests followed, all carried out in hospital and visits to medical specialists. It became clear Antonio was anaphylactic and the triggers were peanuts and locust bean gum .

Our whole family – grandparents, aunties, uncles, brothers, sister and cousins were made aware of Antonio's condition whenever we met for family parties. It’s so easy for someone to offer him a nut or a lolly/jelly with locust bean gum and we couldn’t afford to take that risk. Antonio's sisters became practiced at using the Epi pen, just in case and we regularly checked Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia’s website for any insights into how to make life easier and safer for Antonio.

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Our whole family – grandparents, aunties, uncles, brothers, sister and cousins were made aware of Antonio's condition whenever we met for family parties. It’s so easy for someone to offer him a nut or a lolly/jelly with locust bean gum and we couldn’t afford to take that risk. Antonio's sisters became practiced at using the Epi Pen.

Antonio had another anaphylactic reaction not long after, this time to some unlabelled major brand jelly which contained locust bean gum, the Epi Pen again coming in handy.

Antonio has learned to ask before he takes food from anyone – "Does that contain nuts?" – and lollies and jelly have to be trusted brands we know. Some brands of chocolates contain nuts, so he never has chocolate unless he knows the brand.

The worry for parents is that one person with good intentions of course could offer their child some food with an allergen in it and BANG, an anaphylactic life-threatening reaction.

At Wiggles HQ we wrote a song called "Ooey, Ooey, Ooey, Allergies" which basically tries to inform parents and children alike about the dangers of sharing foods and what an allergic reaction can do. The song has only been up for a short time and has had over a million hits on You Tube which shows there are a range of allergies out there that lots of parents can relate to and would like to create awareness around.

There is nothing in my life more precious than our children. Anaphylaxis threatens my little boy's well-being and it is so scary to think good food can kill children, teens and adults.

We have to constantly monitor our Epi Pen use-by-date, reinforce to Antonio not to share food at school, watch out for food labels and when at a restaurant or party ALWAYS ask about ingredients. Life goes on and we have had so many beautiful moments with Antonio, we want him to have a great and fulfilling life, so we are always on the lookout for ‘ooey ooey ooey allergies’.

The Wiggles new album‘Furry Tales’ is out now. The Wiggles Taking Off! tour continues around the world entertaining the mini-masses to sell-out crowds, with South Australia and Western Australia next in line. All upcoming touring information, new Wiggles shows, music, events and adventures taking place can be found at www.thewiggles.com.

For more information about childhood food allergies in Australia please visit triggerallergy.com.

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