Young people with severe allergies need help to live safely with their condition as they enter adulthood, a study has found.
A survey of severe allergy sufferers aged 15 to 25 found that not all were receiving the specialist care they needed.
Younger respondents were more likely to be given appropriate medical care – 34 per cent for those aged 15 to 18-years-old – compared with 23 per cent for over 18′s, researchers found.
Of the 520 people who took part in the nationwide survey by the University of Edinburgh, the majority said that they had lived with severe allergies since they were young children.
More than half reported to having to go to Accident and Emergency units following an attack. Two-thirds of allergy sufferers said they always carried their treatment – adrenaline injections – with them, while less than one-quarter said that they had ever used these.
Severe allergic reaction – or anaphylaxis – is caused by contact with food such as nuts, eggs and dairy products and by bee or wasp stings, as well as latex rubber and certain drugs.
Symptoms include swelling in the throat and mouth, difficulty in speaking or swallowing, changes in heart rate, severe asthma, vomiting and unconsciousness. It can be fatal without fast treatment.
It is estimated that one in three adults and 50 per cent of children in the UK are diagnosed with an allergic condition at some point in their lives.
The online study also found that more than half those surveyed wanted more information about eating out, travelling and food labelling.
Almost a quarter of people said that they needed more information on managing their allergies without parental help, while others said that coping with their condition in social situations concerned them.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences said: “The transition to adulthood can be particularly challenging for young people with severe allergies. They need to learn to balance personal safety with independent living. Information and support for young people and their families are crucial to successfully managing this transition. With the help of the food industry, healthcare professionals and patient support organizations can help to meet these needs.”
Lynne Regent, chief executive of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, added: “We are currently developing several key projects to help young people manage their allergies following the results of this survey. We also urge healthcare professionals and the food industry to take note of the key points from the survey’s results, particularly around access to specialist care and improvements to food labelling.”
The study is published in the journal of Clinical and Translational Allergy and was funded by the In Memoriam Fund of the Anaphylaxis Campaign.
The University of Edinburgh