Britain Facing “Hidden” Allergy Epidemic

Written by on May 1, 2015 in Insight - No comments

Living In Fear – The Story

Britain is in the grip of a major allergy crisis, with millions of sufferers at risk of dying because of a terrifying lack of life-saving awareness among the public.

Allergy UK has found that nearly half of the nation’s severe allergy sufferers live in daily fear of suffering what could be a deadly allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis.

HousecallWEBYet new research carried out by the national charity has found that the majority of the UK population (68%) would not know how to help if they saw someone suffering from a reaction.

The research comes as the latest NHS statistics reveal hospital admissions in England for allergic reactions are soaring to more than 20,000 each year, over 60% (12,560) of these are emergencies.

But the charity is warning that this could be just the tip of the iceberg and the true dangerous toll of allergic reactions may be far greater.

Lindsey McManus, Deputy CEO, Allergy UK said: “Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction which can be terrifying at best and fatal at worst. There is a concerning lack of awareness of this fatal condition. Thousands of people are being admitted to hospital every year and the number of sufferers is soaring. Yet allergy is still a relatively ‘hidden’ epidemic. More must be done to raise awareness of the deadly condition if lives are to be saved.”

New research carried out by the charity to mark Allergy Awareness Week, which runs from 20th  April, has also revealed that FEAR is a huge factor both for allergy sufferers and the general public.

A survey of 2006 people found that 66% of UK adults admit they don’t know how to use life-saving adrenaline pens (adrenaline auto-injectors), the one thing which can quickly save a life.

It also reveals that 68% of people admit they are scared, hesitant or anxious at the thought of having to give someone the easy to use ‘jab’.

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.

The biggest lack of knowledge is among 18-24 year olds. The survey shows that 74% would not know what to do if they saw someone having a reaction, making them the least ‘allergy aware’ group.

Ms McManus 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.”

Despite the fact that allergy is a common chronic condition, the research reveals that almost half (44%) of people in the UK have no idea what anaphylaxis is. Allergy Awareness Weeks runs from April 20th-26th and aims to bridge this gap of knowledge.

Spotting symptoms early is vital. Currently, around 1 in 4 people (23%) are mistaking facial weakness as a symptom of an allergic reaction and 15% wrongly cited pain down the arm as a sign of anaphylaxis.

Allergy UK is calling on people to ‘recognize the symptoms, recognize the FEAR’:

  • Face – 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?

If a combination of these symptoms is visible, the advice is to administer adrenaline into the upper, outer leg (thigh) and call 999. If the symptoms do not improve after five minutes, administer a second dose of adrenaline into the other thigh.

A massive 69% of people have no idea where to inject an adrenaline pen.  This lack of public knowledge is a major contributing factor to why allergy sufferers are so fearful of a reaction.

Nearly all of those 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.

Over one in four sufferers (26%) have been teased or bullied about their condition which could be why one in three (32%) lack self-confidence.

Allergy UK has issued a report entitled ‘Living in Fear’ which contains further insight into the daily impact that allergy has on the lives of its sufferers.

Members of the public can show their support by taking part in Allergy UK’s #LivingInFear social media campaign.

The charity is asking everyone to write down their individual fear on a piece of paper, along with #LivingInFear, and post a selfie on social media, nominating a friend to share their own fear in support of allergy sufferers.


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