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STEPHANIE FAWCETT
Last updated 07:38 18/05/2012
Allergies
SHANE WENZLICK
BEST MATES: Sir Peter Leitch and his grandson Reuben Judson-Leitch, 8, are ready to raise money for Allergy Awareness Week.

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They're calling it black gold and Sir Peter Leitch is hoping a jar of it will help make a difference for allergy sufferers and their families.

Sir Peter, also known as The Mad Butcher, is auctioning off a jar of Marmite signed by former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry who fronts an advertising campaign for the product.

The successful bidder will also get a certificate of authentication signed by both knights.

Marmite has been in short supply here and in Australia since an earthquake damaged the Christchurch-based Sanitarium manufacturing plant in February 2011. Production is not expected to restart until mid-year.

Sir Peter hopes the TradeMe auction will help raise money and awareness for Allergy New Zealand during Allergy Awareness Week.

"We bought the Marmite for $2300 at a fundraiser for diabetes and on the way home thought why don't we auction it off for Allergy New Zealand?" Sir Peter says.

The Bucklands Beach resident is patron of Allergy New Zealand and became involved because his grandson Reuben Judson-Leitch has severe food allergies.

"It's about raising awareness and letting people know that if they or their children have allergies they should be contacting the organisation or getting along to see Dr Vincent Crump at the Auckland Allergy Clinic," Sir Peter says.

"People need to remember that they can die from allergies.

"For example, if someone has a bad reaction that EpiPen can be really vital. We want to lift awareness and get people to take it seriously."

Reuben's mother Angela Leitch says her son was officially diagnosed at 8 months old.

"He has life-threatening allergies to eggs and peanuts and he's also allergic to grass, dogs and dust mites," she says.

"When he was younger he was also allergic to dairy and soy but he outgrew that at about 5 or 6 which made life a little bit easier."

Eight-year-old Reuben has to carry a kit with him which includes his EpiPen, antihistamines and steroid creams in case of a reaction.

But Angela says managing his allergies can be frustrating for him.

"At kindy it was really good, it was a peanut-free zone but school's a bigger environment and you can't really do that so he practises avoidance," she says.

"As he gets older he gets frustrated that he has to take his own food when he goes to birthday parties when he'd like to be able to have a piece of birthday cake.

"Sometimes people don't take food allergies seriously and they think, `Oh, he'll just get a rash or something' but that's not the case if it's anaphylaxis.

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"If you ate peanuts and then touched Reuben there's a good chance his breathing would have stopped by the time the ambulance got here if he didn't have his EpiPen. It can happen in minutes."

Allergy Awareness Week runs from May 20 to 26.

Visit allergy.org.nz for more information on allergies and managing them.

Go online to place your bid.

- Eastern Courier

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