allergyAs a vegetarian, I’m used to asking questions about food.

“What stock do you use in the soup?” or, on one memorable occasion, having ordered a simple jacket potato with cheese: “Er, is that bacon?” (The chef thought he would spruce up the “boring” spud with some bacon bits (it was in America many years ago)).

If ever I’m given a wrong answer, the worst that will happen is my moral sensibilities will be offended; the same can’t be said for Freya and the millions of other allergy suffers for whom misinformation, in the most severe cases, can result in death.

Of course, it’s not just food. Freya has reacted to toothpaste, nappy cream, medicine and things we don’t even know – although usually with relatively minor consequences such as in the photo above (this was close to the end of that particular reaction when I had calmed down enough to take a photo to show the doctor) and mainly non IgE reactions such as tummy trouble.

It’s Allergy Awareness Week in the UK and new findings from two surveys – one of allergy sufferers and one of the general public – have been released. The first revealed that nearly half of the sufferers asked live in fear – not only of having a reaction but also that no one around them will know what to do.

And it seems that is a valid concern with Allergy UK’s second survey finding that the majority of those asked (68%) would not know how to help if they saw someone suffering from a reaction. While 66% of people also admit they don’t know how to use life-saving adrenaline pens – including me, I’m ashamed to say.

The charity is calling on people to recognise the FEAR:

FearFace – is their face/are their lips swollen? Have they gone pale? Are they lightheaded?
Eyes – is there a look of fear in their eyes? Are they red, watery and puffy?
Airways – are they wheezing/uncontrollably coughing? Do they have a shortness of breath? Are they unable to talk? Are they making a strange sound?
Rash – is there a red, raised, itchy rash anywhere on their body especially their face or neck?

They are also using the week to encourage people to learn more about how to help, including administering the pen (I couldn’t get a link to a video on their site to work so here is another, which is American and refers to 911 rather than 999).

The survey results of the general public show 68% of people admit to being scared, hesitant or anxious at the thought of having to give someone the easy to use “jab”.

But the charity says this hesitation is unwarranted. “If the situation is misjudged and the AAI is used unnecessarily but in the correct way, the adrenaline would not cause any lasting harm, but the consequences of not using one could be fatal.”

Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO, said: “People need to understand the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and have the knowledge and confidence to act swiftly if faced with an emergency by administering a life-saving injection. We are urging people to educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, which could potentially save lives.”

Nearly all of those surveyed living with a severe allergy say their daily life is affected by the condition with 92% concerned about eating out, while 82% worry about going on holiday.

As well as issuing the report entitled Living in Fear, which contains further insight into the daily impact that allergy has on the lives of its sufferers, there is also a #LivingInFear social media campaign to help raise money for the charity.

You can find out more information about allergies and intolerances here.