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Oli Weatherall: A life robbed of spontaneity

The only place 22 year old business student Oli Weatherall can truly relax is at his parent's home in Farnham, Surrey.

He saya: "I know I'll be safe there because there are no peanuts or sesame seeds around."

Having anaphylaxis has robbed his young life of spontaneity and fun because Oli has to be constantly on the alert.

"I haven;t eaten out for more than a year because I find it much too stressful. If the restaurant or cafe staff aren't knowledgeable, I'm not willing to put my life in their hands. Some don't have English as their first language so what you say can get lost in translation, whiich could have deadly consequences."

Oli had his first anaphylactic shock at 13 after eating a piece of toast at a friend's house. Hives appeared all over his body and he found it hard to breathe.

"It was very frightening because I'd no idea what was happening to me. My home was close by so I managed to get there and my mum took me straight to A&E at Framlingham Park Hospital" 

Oli was given steroids and the reaction subsided. A skin prick test revealed he was severely allergic to peanuts and every day since then he has carried two adrenaline auto-injector pens as well as antihistamine tablets and steroids everywhere with him. He recalls: "My friend had put peanut butter on his toast. I cleaned the knife and then used it to spread ordinary butter on mine but a trace must have been left behind. Now whenever I see peanuts on a bar or in a restaurant, I get very anxious.

"Being told you have anaphylaxis has a huge impact on you. I'm constantly in fight or flight mode, because having difficulty breathing and feeling your throat tighten up when you're having an anaphylactic shock is the worst thing ever.

"Cross-contamination is a constant source of worry, because traces of peanuts can get left behind on surfaces and utensils."

Oli adds: "Most people don't have to think too much about food if they go out for the day. They can go into a pub or whatever without a second thought but those like me with severe food allergies have to constantly think ahead and work out whether we need to take food with us.2

Despite taking great care, Oli has had two anaphylactic shocks in the past year. The first occurred after eating teriyaki crackers during the Christmas holidays, which alerted him to the fact that he is severely allergic to sesame seeds as well as peanuts. Then in July, when watching the World Cup semi-final on TV at his local pub, people got excited and started lobbing drinks around and he got splashed with beer. The drinker must have been eating peanuts because Oli recognised he was going into an anaphylactic shock.

The stress of being at risk of anaphylaxis for the last ten years has taken its toll and Oli has had to take a year out from his course at Exeter University because he was struggling to keep up. 

"It doesn't help that other people simply don't get the fact that you can die from a severe allergy like this. Indeed some laugh when you tell them bout it, but they wouldn't laugh if you told them you were in a wheelchair. Unless someone close to them is affected, people simply don't understand anaphylaxis."

There is, Oli believes, a real demand for food from the 14 main allergens. 

"cooking for myself I've become a seasoned cook and I've used my break from university to launch a range of vegan recipes free from these allergens on Instagram. I'd now love to compile a cookbook and maybe one day see my meals appear on supermarket shelves."

To see Oli's recipes, log on to: www.instagram.com/freefromfourteenvegan