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'My 12-year-old son can die from eating nuts and eggs but it’s time to let him go.'

We drove home in complete silence. It wasn’t usually like this. Normally my son and I looked forward to his allergy appointments in the city. We’d make a day of it.

But not today.

Every year since he was a baby my son Philip, 12, has been dealing with deadly food allergies. We’d become used to good news. As he got older he was able to tolerate increased amounts of egg and some nuts. We felt certain that he would soon grow out of his allergies completely.

That’s not what happened. Instead that day at the doctors we were told that his remaining allergies – egg, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecan nuts – were most likely lifetime allergies. We were told that we didn’t need to come back for another appointment for two years.

It was really hard to hear.

As Philip has gotten older I have become more and more afraid for him because he is with me less and less. He’s needed to start taking more responsibility for his food allergies and I’ve had no choice but to trust that he is ready for that.

Philip has to carry his EpiPen with him at all times and is learning how to use it himself. Image: Provided

It all came crashing down last week when he came home with a letter from the school that I had been dreading. It was a consent form for the upcoming school camp. Last year he'd gone on a short school camp close to home and I'd been able to prepare all of his meals for him.

This time he'd be going further away and would have to make his own food choices, with the help of school staff.

"You can't go," was the first thing I said to which he threw a huge tantrum and stomped out of the room. I knew I was over-reacting. I knew I was being silly. He has every right to live a normal life and I had no right to restrict his life with my fear and paranoia.

I was just so scared.

When he goes away and is in the care of people who don't have a lot of experience with food allergies I assume he is dead until he comes home. Sounds pretty silly, huh? It's just my fear. I can't stop my brain from going to that horrible, dark place.

We were at his best friend's house recently, a boy whose mother just so happens to be my best friend as well. Philip feels pretty at home there and helped himself to a snack from their pantry. His best friend walked up to him, snatched the snack out of his hands, read the ingredients and then declared it to be "okay for you to eat".

That's the moment I knew Philip would be okay.

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I have to let go of the nightmares. Of the times Philip has almost died from his food allergies. From the time I had to give him his EpiPen because I hadn't washed a pan properly. From the time his friend chased him around the school holding a boiled egg and my son had run away terrified as everyone laughed at him.

But not his best friend. He wasn't laughing. He ran to Philip and asked him if he was okay.

He wasn't and his friend stayed with him until he was.

I no longer have to be solely responsible for keeping Philip alive. It is no longer my sole responsibility to protect him from his allergens; food for goodness sake. Food isn't meant to kill.

I still haven't come to terms with the fact that food allergies even exist. The idea that a food I can throw back with abandon, eat anywhere, anytime, is mistaken for poison by his body. The fact that even a trace of these foods can cause immediate swelling as his airways close, as he feels that sense of dread he feels when he is having a reaction, at having to look at the panic in his eyes as he realises what is happening, is shocking to me.

Where the hell did all of these food allergies come from? Why on earth are there so many in Australia? It's unbelievable.

During family outings we have to be careful about the food he eats. Image: Provided

I am so thankful for my friends and family who have gone out of their way to help me manage Philip's food allergies. I am so thankful for the current school principal who is pro-active when it comes to managing food allergies at the school. I am so thankful to my son's friends for talking care of him.

My son knows how much I admire him. Even though that day as we drove home in silence he wasn't ready to hear me say, "There's no point getting upset about things we cannot change," I did say it as soon as we got home.

"I hate it when you say that," he spat at me before stomping to his room and slamming the door.

"We can handle this," I yelled through the door.

That's the day I started to hand the baton on to him. He was 12, he was due to start high school the following year. It was time for him to take over the management of his food allergies. I know he can do it and I know his friend's have his back.

"Be aware, show you care, paint a nail today."

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. To find out more visit Food Allergy Aware.

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