Allergy Awareness Week
Allergy Awareness Week is run by Allergy UK and will run from Monday 23rd April to Sunday 29th April 2018.
What is the aim of Allergy Awareness Week?
The focus of Allergy Awareness Week will be on “travelling with an allergy” and the difficulties this can cause sufferers. During the awareness week, Allergy UK will be sharing their top travel tips with allergy sufferers and advice on how to cope with these, as well as spreading awareness.
What is an allergy?
Allergy UK estimates that around 21 million people in the UK live with an allergic disease meaning they are quite common, but vary in severity. The NHS defines an allergy as “a reaction the body has to a particular food or substance”.
Severe allergic reactions are uncommon and can be potentially life-threatening. However, the majority are mild but can cause disruption in day-to-day life. The NHS list some of the common allergies as:
- grass and tree pollen – hay fever
- dust mites
- animal dander (tiny flakes of skin or hair)
- food – particularly nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cow’s milk
- insect bites and stings
- household chemicals
What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?
You should be vigilant of any symptoms of an allergic reaction, to ensure you treat the symptoms adequately and take precautions in future against the suspected allergen. The following are symptoms of an allergic reaction, suggested by the NHS:
- A runny or blocked nose
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Wheezing and coughing
- A red itchy rash
- Worsening of asthma or eczema
The symptoms above are those of a milder allergic reaction that is normally quite easily treated with home remedies and over the counter medication (with the exception of more severe asthma). However, if people have more severe allergies, this can be extremely urgent as they can go into anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis).
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening allergic reaction which may result in death unless properly treated. It requires immediate emergency medical treatment. It affects 2 or more body systems which can result in respiratory distress, hypotension and potentially death (if untreated immediately due to restricted breathing or extremely low blood pressure).
Anaphylaxis is likely when all of the following 3 criteria are met (Exposure to a known allergen supports the diagnosis):
- Sudden onset and rapid progression of symptoms
- Life-threatening Airway and/ or Breathing and/or Circulation problems (ABC)
- Skin and/or mucosal changes
People who know they are at risk of a severe allergic reaction will carry an adrenaline pen at all times, in case they go into anaphylactic shock. Adrenaline can be a vital lifeline to sufferers, before getting medical treatment. It is important to understand that adrenaline helps combat the immediate symptoms of anaphylactic shock, but medical attention should always be sort.
Adrenaline can help by:
- Reversing peripheral vasodilation
- Causing bronchodilation which improves respiration
- Improving blood pressure and coronary perfusion
- Decreasing angio-oedema (swelling of the lower layer of skin and tissue just under the skin)
- Reducing the release of inflammatory mediators
Allergy UK has put together a list of interesting facts regarding allergies in the UK:
- The prevalence rate of allergic conditions in the UK is quite high, with around 20% of people suffering from allergies. This is one of the highest prevalence rates in the world
- 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy
- In the UK, from 1992 to 2012 hospital admissions for anaphylaxis increased by 615%.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 300 million have asthma worldwide. They estimate this will rise to 400 million people by 2025
- Anaphylaxis reactions occur in roughly 1 in 1000 people.