I was really sad to hear this week about the death of a young lady on a plane because the food she ate contained an allergen which was not labelled. It would seem from the statement I saw from anaphylaxis UK that companies selling freshly produced food do not have to label everything but should produce such information if it is requested. Whatever the legalities around it this was a very tragic thing to happen in someone so young.
Anaphylaxis or severe allergies are something that can happen unexpectedly at any time. If you are not prepared it can be quite frightening to watch someone experiencing a reaction. When children or young people have allergies they are often more cautious of the foods that they can eat when at parties or at nursery, but as children themselves are unpredictable this is not a full gone conclusion.
Severe allergies will often not happen the first time someone comes into contact with a food / medication / other substance which causes them to react. It will be subsequent exposure to the allergen that causes the problem. Reactions do get progressively worse, so if there is a rash when someone first eats something it may be worth speaking to your GP.
Anaphylaxis or severe reactions tend to happen very quickly, often within minutes of exposure to the allergen, so someone can become very ill very quickly.
Some allergies will improve as the child gets older approaching school age. For example they often grow out of egg and dairy allergies but not always.
Nut allergies tend to be the most serious and it only takes a very small trace of them on the skin or in the air to cause a reaction so it is really important for other parents to know not to bring foods containing nuts into school or nursery.
If your child has an allergy it is important to inform the school or early years setting they attend so that the staff can make sure they know what to look out for and also what to do if they do see a child having a reaction.
Nursery and school managers have a duty to ensure their staff have appropriate training to keep their knowledge and skills up to date
So how would you recognise a severe allergy?
If your child has anaphylaxis they are likely to be given an adrenaline auto injector which will help to reverse the reaction. This needs to be available at all times for the child to use and you should be given advice on how and when to use it. Your child will need to have access to them in school. They may also be given piriton and an inhaler if they experience wheezing as a result of an allergy.
If there are children visiting you who suffer from an severe allergy, make sure you know what they are allergic to and also that you have access to the medication. Find out what symptoms they show when they are having a reaction and be sure to take an up to date phone number from their parents. Take care when offering the child food or snacks.
If someone develops a reaction and they have an epi pen, keep them calm, get someone to call 999, and help them to take the epi pen if they need you to. Note the time you give it. If the first one does not work and they have a second one you can give this 5 minutes later. It is better for them to have the medication and not need it than to need it and not have it. If they do have their adrenaline auto injector you need to make sure they go to hospital afterwards. The symptoms may return as adrenaline has a short half life.
If you have no treatment for them, keep them calm and call 999 to ask for advice and monitor the person until help arrives in case they collapse. Be prepared to do CPR if they collapse.
Severe allergies can be really stressful for children and their families, but it is possible to live with them and minimise risks if you know what to look for. For more information why not visit the anaphylaxis UK website, it is full of great advice and tips