Frustrating wait for allergy tests

Aidan Swinburne, 12, has a range of allergies - some of which are life threatening. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

A 12-year-old boy who is severely allergic to a raft of everyday items has been left frustrated after being told he can no longer get the testing he needs.

Aidan Swinburne was due to have extensive allergy testing that requires a day stay in Tauranga Hospital’s paediatric unit, but a staffing shortage means this is no longer possible.

Preliminary tests earlier in November confirmed his allergen levels had dropped, which meant he could undergo further testing to see if he could tolerate some of his allergens.

At his peak, Aidan was allergic to 27 different things, but this has since reduced to nine. He is allergic to tomato, shellfish, wet grass, dandelions, birch, all nuts, dust and mould.

A number of his allergens can spark an anaphylactic reaction, including tomatoes and peanuts.

Aidan and mum Leanne were hopeful he could try tomatoes at the next phase of his testing to add more variety to his diet.

“It just got his hopes up,” says Leanne. “His allergen levels have dropped and now we can't do anything.

“He’s 12 and there’s just no flavour in his diet whatsoever.”

Leanne says she knows there are “bigger issues” that people are facing, but the situation with hospital allergy services remains a frustrating one.

“We finally hit a milestone and now it’s null and void. We just have to wait.”

Aidan is equally disappointed.

“I have a very bland diet and I mostly eat the same thing,” says the Otūmoetai Intermediate student.

He also has to be very careful when eating out or at friends’ places, to ensure there are no traces whatsoever of tomato, nuts or shellfish in the food he eats. 

Just touching tomato or peanut-related products will cause his skin to go red and swell. Most of his reactions can be manged with antihistamines, but he does carry an EpiPen in case of a severe reaction.

Aidan would love to try lasagne, but can’t do so unless he has the tests. Until then he will stick to plain mince with mayonnaise.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board inpatient medical and paediatric services nurse leader Regan Spillane says they regret the frustration and inconvenience experienced by people trying to access paediatric allergy services at Tauranga Hospital.

He says allergy testing takes place in the paediatric day stay unit and requires registered nursing resources.

“We are currently experiencing a registered nursing shortage in our paediatric service and, as a result, our day stay unit has been closed temporarily,” says Regan.

“The situation is being regularly reviewed and it is intended to recommence allergy testing as soon as possible.”

Regan says outpatient clinics are still operating.


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