When John Ilhan tenderly kissed his 2-year-old daughter, Jaida it almost proved fatal to her. Almost as soon as he kissed Jaida, he noticed that her face began to swell up. Worried he started to fret about whether it was caused by something she ate or something she touched.
'We discovered that it was me,' he recalled. 'I ate some peanuts that morning, I gave her a kiss and her whole face came up ... luckily for us it was from my kiss rather than her eating some nuts.' John Iihan took Jaida to the Royal Children's Hospital, where she was diagnosed with anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening allergic reaction brought on by food which in Jaida's case was peanuts.
Mr Ilhan, known in his business circles as 'Crazy John', was frightened by the experience into being a stricter parent. In addition it also prompted him to donate $1 million, through the newly established Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation, towards research to help find a cure for this condition that affects one in 5000 people.
Jaida, now five, was one of the fortunate ones. If she had eaten just a small handful of nuts it could well have spelt death for her. Children who have suffered that fate include Alex Baptist who died in a Melbourne kindergarten in 2004, possibly after coming into contact with peanuts. In 2002, NSW teenager Hamidur Rahman also suffered the same fate.
Waiting times to get into the Royal Children's Hospital's allergies clinic can be as long as 15 months. Health Minister Bronwyn Pike yesterday announced extra recurrent funding of $430,000, which the hospital hopes will help reduce waiting times.
The director of the hospital's allergy department, Associate Professor Mimi Tang, suggested that changes in the environment related to Western lifestyle had led to more allergic disorders. She also added that, while anaphylaxis affected the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and was potentially life-threatening, most people did not die from it.
Often the symptoms of an allergic reaction include development of hives, swelling of the lips and eyes, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and vomiting. Severe cases may also show serious coughing, difficulty with breathing and a sharp reduction in blood pressure.
Primary treatment often is with adrenalin, which opens the airways, helps breathing and raises the blood pressure to prevent the child from collapsing.