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Allergy action plan aims to save children's lives

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

24th October 2013 - New national Allergy Action Plans have been developed by doctors in an effort to protect children at risk of life-threatening allergic reactions.

The plans, released by the Paediatric Allergy Group of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), have been drawn up following consultations with health professionals, patient organisations, teachers and parents whose children have food allergies which can lead to anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can develop rapidly. Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Changes to the skin, such as itchiness or a rash
  • Swelling of certain body parts, particularly the face

Cases of anaphylaxis - which is sometimes called anaphylactic shock - need to be treated as a medical emergency.

Dr Paul Turner, who helped coordinate the Allergy Action Plans, says in a statement: "Currently, many different plans are used in the UK, dependent on local and regional practice, which can cause confusion to parents, school staff and health professionals alike.

"It’s always difficult for doctors to predict which allergy sufferers may be at risk of severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. These plans can be used by GPs, hospital doctors and other health professionals to provide guidance on how to manage allergic reactions."

This guidance can then be used by parents, teachers and others without any special medical training to treat severe reactions in children.

Food allergies

The plans have been endorsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and welcomed by parents, teachers and support groups, including the Anaphylaxis Campaign and Allergy UK.

An estimated 780,000 children in the UK have food allergies and over the past decade there has been a 400% increase in the prescription of Adrenaline Auto Injectors (AAI), which are used to treat anaphylaxis.

Professor John Warner, a paediatrician specialising in paediatric allergy, who was involved in developing the plans, says in a statement: "We have been very concerned that carers and young people find handling an acute allergy very stressful, leading to hesitation in using rescue treatment.

"The action plans will guide carers in recognising and treating allergic reactions in order to prevent them evolving into life-threatening events."

The BSACI says a recent UK survey of almost 1,000 children and teenagers prescribed AAI found that 83% of those who had anaphylaxis during the preceding year did not use their injector. It says research shows that patients are three times more likely to carry injectors when a personalised action plan has been drawn up.

In an emailed comment, Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO, Allergy UK says: "Allergy UK welcome the plans issued by the BSACI. It will give parents and carers of people with severe food allergy the confidence that if a severe allergic reaction should occur, access to the correct, consistent advice on how to manage it rapidly will be available."

Reviewed on October 24, 2013

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