Playing safe with the ingredients

THIS time of year many of us are cutting out chocolate, bread and pizzas from our diet in a bid to trim our waistlines.

But, for some, even a taste of such treats could be deadly.

Millions of people in the UK suffer from food allergies which can make everyday living difficult and eating out nearly impossible.

Food Allergy and Intolerance Week – January 24-30 – aims to raise

awareness of people with the condition.

Eilidh Grant (25) has been allergic to eggs and nuts since she was born and, in the last five years, has also developed coeliac disease – a severe allergy to gluten which is found in wheat, barley and rye.

If she eats eggs or nuts, she will go into anaphylatic shock, causing her throat to seize up and blood pressure to plummet.

Every year in the UK around 20 people die from this but the majority could have been saved with an injection of adrenaline.

Most allergy sufferers carry a auto-injector filled with adrenaline in case of emergencies.

As well as allergies, Eilidh also has food intolerances to dairy and some citrus fruits. The hairdresser from Falkirk, who carries an

EpiPen self-injector of adrenaline at all times, has learnt to live with her condition but says it wasn't always easy.

"When I was little I used to get really annoyed that I couldn't eat things like chocolate and sweets like my friends could,'' she said. ''But as I've got older I've became more accepting.

"It can makes things like eating out very difficult and means I have to go to the same places all the time as I know they can cater for my

allergies.

''I think restaurants are getting better now and often a menu will have gluten-free items, but that doesn't mean they will also be egg and nut

free."

There have been times Eilidh has accidentally eaten something she is allergic to.

Once, when she was a child, and in the days before the EpiPen was introduced, she ate a sweet containing egg white while on a plane.

On the occasion, she had to crunch on ice for the rest of the flight to combat her symptoms, but generally she has been lucky.

Eilidh lives with her boyfriend Chris and he has had to alter his eating habits to allow for her allergies.

"We are both really into fitness and Chris would eat lots of nuts and things for protein, but now he has to eat them out of the house. I can't

even kiss him after he's eaten nuts or eggs, he has to go and brush his teeth!

"Chris also really wants a dog but I'm allergic to them too so we can't get one.

"I think being allergic to so many things forcesme to have quite a healthy diet because I have to make things from scratch all the time, although I can eat some treats, like Haribo sweets, which I love.

''The only real problem is eating out, that and the fact that none of my friends ever wants to invite me round for dinner!"

JENNIFER Ure has been severely allergic to peanuts ever since

she can remember, but it didn't stop her organising an around-the-world trip.

The 26-year-old from Larbert and husband David packed their bags for the

nine-month holiday that took in countries including Australia, India, new Zealand, Argentina and Peru.

Although she was apprehensive about how she would get on, the use

of allergy cards meant the couple had no problems.

Jennifer, a maths teacher at LarbertHigh School, said: "I was a bit nervous about how I'd cope travelling with an allergy but everything

was fine.

"Before we left we made up cards in every language we would encounter that described my allergy and that I couldn't eat anything with nuts.

''nut allergies aren't as common in other parts of the world so many

restaurants had not dealt with a customer like me before, but everyone was very accommodating."

Even touching an object which has had nuts in it will cause Jennifer to have an allergic reaction and breathing in particles of peanut dust can cause her problems.

As a result, during all her flights on the trip, peanuts couldn't be served or consumed on board as the dust from them is released and circulated around the aircraft with the ventilation system.

"I've been living with the allergy for so long that I know what has nuts and what doesn't without really having to check the label,

but there have still been accidents.

"Once we ordered a takeaway from the same place as always but, for some

reason, this time they had made the food with ground almonds in it and I started reacting. I'm pretty sure David broke some speed limits that night getting me to hospital.

"When I consume anything with peanuts, almonds or nut oil it can

result in anaphylaxis but I've been quite lucky and it's never been too severe."