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Allergy Awareness Week: Benjamin's story

Date: 26 April 2023

Time: 14:00

Ben Cronin

For Allergy Awareness Week, we’ve spoken to volunteer Benjamin Cronin about his experience living with a severe allergy.


Please introduce yourself and your role/involvement with EEAST

Hi, my name is Ben Cronin, I am a volunteer for EEAST in the Community Engagement Group (CEG) and am currently the ICB co-ordinator for the Suffolk and north east Essex area, helping a group of seven other volunteers within the CEG.


What is it that you’re allergic to?

I am allergic to all forms of mint including spearmint, peppermint, and menthol, as well as being highly sensitive to eucalyptus.


Can you talk a bit about how you found out you had an allergy?

As a child I found that when I used mint flavoured toothpaste, or ate anything minty, it made my tongue burn and mouth feel funny and that I felt sick, but I never reacted at such a severe level. I also found it made me itchy, especially when I was in the garden as my mother grew lots of it in the herb garden.  I have therefore always avoided it, however in 2016, I was brushing my teeth and I had used the wrong toothpaste and it was a strong mint one, and within five minutes, I was short of breath and wheezy, with hives all over my body and showing all the symptoms of anaphylaxis. I called 999 and within nine minutes, a paramedic had me on nebulisers and adrenaline IM shots and I was admitted to resus in the local ED.


How does your allergy affect your day-to-day life?

I am not allowed to use any form of mint product, so my current toothpaste favourites are either Colgate Lemon Toothpaste ($15 a tube imported from the USA) or Disney Princess Glitter Bubble-gum flavour with sparkles. All forms of mouthwash are out of bounds apart from the berry blast ones and it makes oral hygiene very difficult at the dentist. I have to watch any time I buy food, including the supermarkets, and where allergy lists contain "herbs and spices" as these are not labelled individually, I have to avoid these. On a personal level, it makes things difficult including dating, and when using public transport, if I am for example on the bus or tube when in London, it has been often that I have had to ask someone to not chew gum next to me because I can react.


Do you have to carry any medication with you in case of an allergic reaction?

I have to always take 180mg fexofenadine daily as well as carry a supply of Chlorphenamine tablets (as I am allergic to the liquid Piriton as this contains Peppermint - one time, I had a reaction, was taken to the local ED, discharged with Piriton,  and then had the same crew return because I reacted to that three hours later). I am always carrying two epi-pens with me at all times.


Do you think there needs to be more awareness around allergies?

There is a high level of awareness of allergies in terms of the main twelve allergens, however more rare allergies are often overlooked or not taken as seriously. There has to be some level of allergy awareness in terms of not labelling things as herbs etc. On the whole, I think awareness of allergies has got better, but there are still plenty of people who think it is just a preference, or that we are fussy.


  • Summary:

    For Allergy Awareness Week, we’ve spoken to volunteer Benjamin Cronin about his experience living with a severe allergy.