ALLERGY expert Dr Paul Carson says that 25pc of the population have some type of allergy but the number of people for whom the allergy is life-threatening would be between 1pc-3pc of this group.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in childhood and causes the most food allergy deaths. Teenagers with this condition are at a higher risk of severe and even fatal reaction. Dr Carson explains that a simple pin-prick test will reveal whether a child or adult is allergic to a substance and "give a hint of how severe the allergy is".
If there is a big reaction to this initial test, a further blood test can be carried out. In the case of peanuts, the blood test will isolate the specific proteins in the nut which give rise to the life-threatening reaction.
Where there is a life-threatening condition, the person can carry a special pen containing adrenaline which they need to inject immediately into their upper thigh to control the reaction. When a nut allergy causes a life-threatening reaction "kids know what is happening. They will tell you a sense of doom sweeps over them. They need to use the pen instantly and then they must get medical attention", Dr Carson said.
He added that allergies in general and nut allergies had doubled in the past 20 years but there were not enough doctors specifically trained as allergists to deal with the issue.
EU legislation has classified 14 major food allergens, all of which must be clearly labelled. These include peanuts, sesame seeds, tree nuts, so1ya, shellfish, celery, cereals containing gluten, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard and the preservative sulphur dioxide.