What is it like to grow up with an allergy?
Allergies The Anaphylaxis Campaign have released a new film which investigates what it's like to grow up with an allergy. Watch their video and find out more information here.
Speaking of their individual conditions the real-life teens cover a vast array of topics on how they are successfully learning to manage their allergy independently, whilst still enjoying a normal life with friends and family.
Introduced by Dr. Matt Doyle MRCP (UK) FRCGP, an expert in the field of allergy, and hosted by Sarah Brown, a medical student from the University of Belfast, the film , ‘Anaphylaxis and me’, gives both a real-life and medical view on coping with allergies as a young person.
‘Anaphylaxis and me’ addresses many important issues, such as eating out, telling friends about the condition and medication, how it feels to have a reaction and how they view having an allergy. However, unlike many films of its kind these subjects are addressed by those with an allergy and also by their friends.
Friends and family of the allergic teen are also asked additionally questions, such as whether they would be confident in an emergency and how they help their friend manage their allergy.
The film is available on YouTube and the Anaphylaxis Campaign website and is released just in time for Allergy Awareness Week.
Allergy Awareness Week started Monday 20th April and runs until Saturday 26th and aims to increase awareness and support for those with severe allergies, highlighting the difficulties they face in everyday life.
FAQs on anaphylaxis
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and can be life threatening. The whole body is affected, often within minutes, but sometimes within hours, of exposure to a substance which causes an allergic reaction (allergen).
Any allergic reaction, including the most extreme form, anaphylactic shock, occurs because the body's immune system reacts inappropriately in response to the presence of a substance that it wrongly perceives as a threat.
An anaphylactic reaction is caused by the sudden release of chemical substances, including histamine, from cells in the blood and tissues where they are stored. The release is triggered by the reaction between the allergic antibody (IgE) and the substance (allergen) causing the anaphylactic reaction. This mechanism is so sensitive that minute quantities of the allergen can cause a reaction. The released chemicals act on blood vessels to cause the swelling in the mouth and anywhere on the skin. There is a fall in blood pressure and, in asthmatics; the effect is mainly on the lungs.
What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?
Look for any of the following symptoms following exposure to an allergen:
- generalised flushing of the skin
- nettle rash (hives) anywhere on the body
- sense of impending doom
- swelling of throat and mouth
- difficulty in swallowing or speaking
- alterations in heart rate
- severe asthma
- abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- sudden feeling of weakness (drop in blood pressure)
- a sense of impending doom or helplessness
- collapse and unconsciousness
A patient would not necessarily experience all of these symptoms.
What the treatment for anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is treated with injectable adrenaline prescribed in the form of an adrenaline auto-injector. Find out more about the adrenaline auto-injector devices available for prescription in the UK here.
Who is at risk of anaphylaxis?
If a patient has suffered a significant allergic reaction in the past – whatever the cause – then any future reaction is also likely to be severe. If a significant reaction to a tiny dose occurs, or a reaction has occurred on skin contact, this might also be a sign that a larger dose may trigger a severe reaction. It is particularly important that those with asthma as well as allergies are seen by an allergy specialist, as asthma can put a patient in a higher risk category. Where foods such as nuts, seeds, shellfish and fish are concerned, even mild symptoms should not be ignored because future reactions may be severe.
Can anyone develop an allergy?
Allergies can develop in anyone at any time, but certain groups are more at risk, for example those who have relatives with allergies and so are genetically predisposed to develop them. If neither parent has an allergy the chance of a child being allergic is only 5 - 15 per cent and if one parent is allergic about 25 per cent. However, if both parents are allergic 50 - 70 per cent of the children are likely to have allergies. It is the tendency that is passed down – not an allergy to a specific food or substance.
Children and babies are also more likely than older individuals to develop allergies.
You can find out more about the causes of allergy and anaphylaxis here.
What is the difference between an allergy and intolerance?
Although often confused, food allergy and food intolerance are mediated by different biological systems. Intolerances have a wider range of symptoms than allergy.
Someone with food intolerance may suffer migraine and unexplained fatigue (central nervous system), abdominal pain, bloating and frequent diarrhoea (gastrointestinal system), unexplained muscle and joint pains (musculoskeletal system) and unexplained nasal congestion and discharge (upper respiratory system). In the case of food allergy the symptoms are more likely to be a swelling of the tissues (e.g. in the face or throat), a skin rash or hives, asthma, or – in extreme causes – a fall in blood pressure. These symptoms are also more likely to be immediate in their onset.
Find out more about food intolerance here.
Can you ‘cure’ allergy and anaphylaxis?
There are currently no known cures for allergies or anaphylaxis, however, there are several management approaches that allergic individuals can adopt to live a normal life and avoid reactions. Avoidance techniques should be practiced and include identifying your allergen(s) through specialist testing and excluding these from your diet and/or contact in daily life. This could include actions, such as reading labels on food and personal care products, or reducing exposure to insects for venom allergies.
How common is allergy and anaphylaxis?
- The UK is one of the top three countries in the world for the highest incident of allergy
- Over 150 million people have allergies in Europe, the most common chronic disease
- Each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%, half of all affected being children
- Up to 1 in 5 allergic people live in fear of death from a possible anaphylactic shock or asthma attack
- Allergy is a chronic disease that is expected to affect more than 50% of all Europeans in 10 years' time
- An estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy (Mintel, 2010)
What has caused the increase seen in allergies in recent years?
There is no single cause for the rising prevalence of allergy that has taken place over the past few decades. There are numerous possible reasons for this and many are still under debate. Understanding the allergy epidemic is a work in progress, but here are some factors that have been considered influential:
- Eating habits
- Early exposure to allergens
- Modern medicines, e.g. antibiotics
- Vitamin D deficiency and other dietary factors
- Find out more about these factors and the rise in allergy prevalence here.