My great nephews are visiting from Boston, and suddenly there’s danger in the kitchen. It started when the older one was the only one: he must have been about eighteen months of age when his mother took him to an allergist for his atopic eczema. That doctor said: ”He’s at the age where he’ll range and browse and try foods that he could be allergic to. Here’s a prescription for an Epi-pen. Inject him with it if he stops breathing.”
The child’s great-uncle, a veteran family doctor, grunted: “Typical American medicine – over diagnosis, over-eager intervention.” The child’s grandfather, an eminent psychiatrist, harrumphed, ”Bah! Humbug!”
Sometime later the mother – my niece – took that child to a pizza parlour where he took a bite of a sesame bun. He chewed once, he chewed again, he gasped, he scratched frantically at his now reddening skin. Then he stopped scratching – and breathing. His mother called 911 and gave him a shot with the Epi-pen. The ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and found the child breathing.
Back to the over treating over-diagnosing doctor who advised: “There could be multiple allergies.” He tested and found anaphylactic allergies to sesame and also to egg, and to tree nuts. Lesser allergies were found to zucchini and squash, pollens and dust mites. The doctor tested for sensitivities to antibiotics. He said, “Well you can’t kill the boy with zucchini or squash, but you could with a cephalosporin. That’s an antibiotic.”
The parents decided to have another child. The younger brother was born and before he had a chance to meet a sesame seed he was tested too. This little feller had his own anaphylactic allergies – to wheat, and to the gluten in barley, rye and spelt, as well as to egg and kiwi fruit. Pollens and dust mites were allergens of a lesser order.
My niece added three to seventeen-point-five and realised nature had dealt her a tricky hand: what one child could eat safely might kill the other. And verse-vica. She and her chocolate-allergic husband have raised these two diabolically matched and unmatched children to twelve and nine years respectively. They subsists on celery and prayer, in Boston, a good place if you have complicated health: they have lots of typical American doctors there, all over-diagnosing and over-treating and keeping kids alive and well.
Now the kids are visiting us in Melbourne. They stepped into our danger kitchen. Their very-great-aunt asked what they’d like to drink. “Water , please, Aunty.”
My wife poured tap water into two surgically clean tumblers. The boys drank as we stood by, Epi-pen in hand.