03 April 2013

Managing severe allergies

Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital marks World Allergy Week with a life saving talk for parents and teachers.

To mark World Allergy Week, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital will host a free talk for teachers and parents on April 9, at 4pm to inform them on how to manage severe allergic reactions and how to reduce the risk of death. Food allergy is on the increase worldwide and mismanagement can lead to death.

Elliot’s Story
Elliot is highly allergic to cow’s milk and when he was 9 months old his grandmother tried a new soya formula. Unbeknownst to her the formula was contaminated with a small amount of cow’s milk. He started vomiting and had severe difficulties breathing. Elliot turned blue and his eyes rolled back in his head.  He survived thanks to quick thinking neighbours, who gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation, and drove him to the nearest hospital where he received the correct emergency treatment.

Elliot was lucky but other children may not be so lucky. His parents have now been trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation as well as how to give intramuscular adrenaline should he accidentally consume cow’s milk again.

Elliot is 9 years old. At his school there are two teachers who have been trained in CPR and the administration of adrenaline. Elliot is also trained in what he can and cannot eat. It is the wish of Elliot's parents that one day he will be able to enjoy an ice-cream walking with his parents, brother and sister down the promenade.

Food Allergies are on the increase
Food allergies are increasing worldwide and they are becoming more severe. The World Allergy Organisation estimates that approximately 30 to 40 percent of the world’s population suffer from allergic diseases, and the prevalence is escalating to epidemic proportions. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 300 million individuals have asthma worldwide, a figure that could increase to 400 million by 2025 if trends continue. Allergic rhinitis (blocked or runny nose with sneezing and itchy eyes or itchy nose), which is a risk factor for asthma, affects 400 million people annually, and food allergies affect about 200 to 250 million. An estimated 250,000 avoidable deaths from asthma occur each year.

The increase in food allergies has also been seen in South Africa. Prof Mike Levin, Head of the Allergy department at the Red Cross Memorial Hospital said: “We have noticed a massive upsurge in the number of children with food allergies at our clinics.  Also each child with food allergies is now allergic to more foods than before, and there are more children with severe, life threatening reactions like anaphylaxis.

Education needs to be widespread
Children, their parents and teachers often don’t have access to the correct diagnoses or management plans.  The treatment of allergies is a tertiary healthcare service and therefore primary health care workers at clinics and community health centres are trained only to give parents basic advice on allergies, such as which foods to avoid.

Prof Levin said: “Many patients with serious food allergies don’t have access to action plans, adrenaline injectors or a safe environment at school where they can be protected from foods that are dangerous for them, and have access to their life saving medication.  So education is critical, not only for patients and their families, but also for school teachers.  Even doctors and nurses need help with dealing with diagnosis and holistic management of children with food allergies to help them lead a happy and safe life.”

Life Saving Allergy Talk at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
The Allergy team at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital will host a free talk for teachers and parents on April 9, at 4pm to inform them on how to manage severe allergic reactions. “The event is about educating people and spreading the knowledge further by the webinars and publicity. This is the first time such an event is being run and we hope to spread the word as much as possible,” Prof Levin said.

The event is sponsored by Akacia.

Launch of two new services for families affected by allergy – A first for South Africa
“We are also launching the ‘Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA) severe allergies and anaphylaxis patient register’ on the same day,” Dr Levin said. “It is a resource aimed at gathering information on people with severe allergies and anaphylaxis, assessing their current care and providing information to decrease their future risk. And we will be introducing people to a Facebook page where they can network these issues amongst themselves and hopefully motivate each other and schools to provide better care for children with allergies.”

The event

“Managing Severe Allergies” Talk Details
Tues April 9, 2013 4pm – 5pm followed by snacks and discussions 5-6pm.

Pola Pasvolsky Lecture Theatre (D3), Main Hospital Building, Red Cross Memorial Children’s Hospital, Klipfontein Road, Rondebosch

Attend “live” via webinar from your home or office!

Just click on this link or cut and paste into your browser

(Press release, Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, April 2013)

(Picture: children smiling from Shutterstock)




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