Allergy awareness – living in fear.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Allergy awareness – living in fear.

  1. Allergies are so scary, especially in babies when they can’t tell you what hurts or what it feels like. This is such an important message to get out there, thanks Tara x

    P.S. As a vegetarian the bacon thing still happens all the time, just a few months ago on cheese on toast!!! Aarggghhh but yes, it’s wasn’t life threatening xx

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    1. Thanks Lisa. Yes, I have no idea what she reacted to in that photo. It was really quite frightening. Thankfully she doesn’t need a pen but at least I know how to use it now.
      What is it with bacon?! And on cheese on toast!

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  2. It’s great that you’re raising awareness to this. We once saw a man having a seizure of sorts and thanks to my mother having had a form or epilepsy as a child she reacted fast and well to the situation and was able to help him. No one else knew what to do and I wonder how differently things might have turned out if she hadn’t been there in that moment. It’s so important that people know more about what to do if someone is having an allergic reaction which is what the gentleman’s seizure turned out to be. Thank you for raising awareness!

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    1. That must have been really frightening. I’m tempted to do a proper first aid course as I think it’s so important to feel like you could at least do something positive to help. I’m glad I know how to use the pen now, although I hope I never have to.

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  3. Well done you for raising awareness about this important issue. My husband used to work with a young man who had a severe allergy to peanuts and carried a pen with him constantly. They had a team lunch at a restaurant once and the waitress didn’t understand how important it was for his food to be completely nut-free – thankfully he had his pen and could administer it himself but scary for everyone involved and if he hadn’t been able to then it would have been so important for others to be able to help. Great post x

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    1. Thanks so much, Michelle. That does sounds like a frightening situation to be in, I’m glad it all worked in the end. I’m pleased I now know how to use then pen but feel like I need to learn more now.

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  4. Really good post and an important one, as I imagine most people wouldn’t have a clue and would panic in this kind of situation! I did a first aid course when I was at the school, but would also like to do a baby one too, babies freak me out anyway as they can’t tell you what’s wrong so I would feel a little more confident if I did one!

    I have to watch it more and more what’s in my food, I’d never really had any allergic reactions to anything before (jewellery, but that doesn’t seem to effect me anymore), but since being pregnant, colourings and flavourings have been setting me off and it scared me to death at first as I didn’t understand what was happening so I can only imagine how frightening it would be to a child!

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    1. Thank you. How strange that pregnancy has set you off. I wonder if it will settle down once she’s out?

      I’d also like to do a baby first aid course (better get on with it!).

      I had a job keeping calm during her first skin reaction as I just didn’t know when it would stop or how bad it would get (her eye was almost closed up at one point). Thankfully they have been few and far between.

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  5. It is a terrible thing and it seems to be more common with each passing year. What are we doing to ourselves and our planet that makes our immune system freak out at theses substances. I have had a lifetime of allergy with milk protein and endless conversations with in laws about the foods I can and cannot eat. For me it is not life threatening, just debilitating…I hope knowledge and awareness improve in the near future.

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    1. I was talking about this with my mum the other day after a ” we never had all this sort of thing in my day” conversation. What has changed so dramatically? I do find it worrying. Have you found you react to more things now?

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      1. I was told by an allergist that my sensitivities would increase, and I think for some people that this is true, but I have found my allergic response fluctuates in accordance with my health status. If I try to eat healthily and stay away from known allergens and gobble probiotics, especially kefir type cultures, I am much better.

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