Living nut free

It was Kirsty Russell’s life-threatening allergy to nuts that persuaded her mum, Angela, to start It’s Nut Free - one of the very few
manufacturers of baked goods to operate in a dedicated, nut-free factory. As her contribution to Allergy Week this year, Kirsty wrote a week’s food diary to give non-allergy sufferers some idea of what it is like to live with a life-threatening allergy. Here are a few extracts. For more information on It’s Nut Free products go to or call 01609 775660

Sunday, 20th May
Breakfast - Pineapple, coconut and banana smoothie
Lunch - Chicken sandwich Tea - Tuna, potatoes and veg.

Today Mum and my little sister Phoebe made biscuits, which was nice as this is something I can't usually eat because of the risk of them containing traces of nuts. Many packs of cakes/biscuits that you buy in the shops have a nut warning, so I have to avoid them.
In my lunch break I went out to get some make up. Because I was in a rush I had to stick to the stuff I know is safe for me, because I didn't have time to check all the ingredients. I didn't use to do this - but last year I went into anaphylactic shock after using a lipbalm with soya oil in it (to which I am also allergic), so now I don't take any risks! It's a pain, but I'd rather take more time checking ingredients than lose my life because I couldn't be bothered.

Monday, 21st May
Breakfast - Blackcurrant and blueberry smoothie
Lunch - Pear, doritos (I had an exam!)
Tea - Chicken, carrots, broccoli, corn, potatoes, gooseberry fool

Today I had an exam so I was very limited in what I could eat. Didn't want to get anything in town 'cos it's a pain having to check the ingredients on things that I used to be able to eat until they started putting the 'may contain' labels on, so I waited until I got home.
School is a problem as well. The school café isn't guaranteed nut free. It's Nut Free products used to be in there but now they're not. I'm working on getting them back in! It means that I have to take my own food which, when I can't be bothered first thing in the morning, equals no lunch!
School is pretty bad as far as allergies are concerned - they sell products with nuts in, and don't have any policies about nuts even though there are several people at my school with nut allergies.
School trips are a major problem. The worst are the trips abroad because then I'm even less confident about what I'm eating. I went to London with school last October and that was fine - we ate in well known restaurants and the waiters were all made aware of my condition.
I went to Paris in February which, although it was a phenomenal trip, was probably one of the scariest experiences of my life. We went to a lot of pavement cafés for our evening meals, and although I had specified what I thought would be the safest option before I went on the trip, I was given completely different. Needless to say, I didn't eat them.

Tuesday, 22nd May
Breakfast - Nothing
Lunch - Philadelphia sandwich, Babybel and Apple
Tea - Vegetable lasagne & garlic bread, fruit salad

Today I had my hair done and then I was in school for an exam, so I didn't really have an opportunity to eat.
I had my lunch when I got home instead of buying anything in the café.
Got a friend staying tonight. He had to be careful not to eat nuts all of today or yesterday so that he didn't cause a reaction if he kissed me! He's very understanding and never takes any risks. I think he worries more about what I eat than I do!
We're having vegetable lasagne for tea - one of Mum's specialities! She always has to cook from scratch because pre-packed/processed foods always have the 'may contain' label. The whole family can't eat nuts or nut products in the house in case I get affected by them, as the only other person with the allergy is Mum's second cousin! They're all pretty understanding but sometimes it limits what they can eat and I have heard they have 'nut parties' when I go away!
When I go away to uni I'll have to start thinking about cooking for myself, which I'm not looking forward to! I'll have to do my own shopping, and basically be in control of the kitchen. If I'm on campus I'm not sure how I'm going to avoid nuts, but I guess other people manage.

Click here if you would like to read about the rest of Kirsty’s week.

First published in 2007

If you found this article interesting, you will find many more articles on peanut and tree-nut allergy here, and reports of research into the conditions here.
You can also find articles on anaphylaxis here, cow's milk allergies here, egg allergy here, histamine intolerance here and articles on a wide range of other allergic and intolerance reactions to a wide range of other foods here.

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