Allergies & anaphylaxis: Could your child be susceptible? Find out…
Allergies and anaphylaxis are becoming more prevalenti, so it’s important parents, other adults and children are aware of the signs and symptoms before they strike. Here, you’ll find all the essential information….
No parent wants to be faced with a child suffering an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis and not know how to respond. But the reality is around 4.1 million Australians live with at least one allergyii. In this special series, The Carousel has teamed up with the ‘Raise Your Hands for Anaphylaxis’ campaign to raise awareness and support for children suffering allergies and anaphylaxis, with the aim of educating people and encouraging schools to educate students. Here, Dr Andrew Rochford, ambassador for the ‘Raise Your Hand for Anaphylaxis Awareness’ campaign, has written a comprehensive guide to give you the right facts. The five minutes it takes to read this info could save a child’s life.
“Our immune systems are very complex and different for every person,” explains Dr Rochford. “An allergy is when our bodies react to specific substances or ‘allergens’ in our environment. These are often substances that are harmless to other people such as dust, pollen, pets, dust mites, insects and some foods.
When a person who has allergies is exposed to specific allergens their immune system reacts, which can lead to several symptoms such as sneezing, hives and watery eyesi.”
The Rise in Allergies
“Allergies are definitely on the rise in Australia,” explains Dr Rochford. “At the moment there are about 4.1 million Australians living with at least one allergyii. A few years ago the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found that 1 in 10 children who participated in a study had an allergic reaction to foodii. The causes for this increase in allergies are still unknown so the most important thing for Australians to do is become more ‘allergy aware’ and recognise the possible symptoms of allergies.”
Common Allergies & Triggers
“People can develop allergies to any substance,” warns Dr Rochford. “Some of the most common allergies relate to foods, such as eggs, milk, peanuts, and seafood, but also dust mites, medication and insect stings. Reactions to these types of allergens can range from a runny nose or sore throat to very serious allergic reactions that can be life threateningi.”
Allergic Reaction Signs & Symptoms
“If you suspect that your child is having an allergic reaction, make note of the possible trigger and get them to the doctor as soon as possible, or hospital emergency room if symptoms indicate an anaphylactic reaction. Documenting your child’s daily activity can also help doctors pin-point likely allergens and triggers. Make note of what your child ate, where they played or if they came in contact with new substances the day of the allergic reaction.”
“Anaphylaxis is the most severe and life threatening form of allergic reaction,” warns Dr Rochford. “Anaphylaxis should be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatmentiii.”
Anaphylaxis Signs & Symptoms
“Some signs that someone is having an anaphylactic reaction include swelling of the tongue, trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness and children often will become floppy and pale,” Dr Rochford explainsiv.
“Once these symptoms start to manifest and you think it could be anaphylaxis, you need to act quickly. Here is the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) step-by-step guide to managing an anaphylactic situationiv:
- Lay the person flat or sit them down, depending on what is more comfortable for their breathing.
- If available, administer the adrenaline auto-injector according to instructions in the ASCIA: First Aid Treatment for Anaphylaxis fact sheet. http://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/anaphylaxis-resources/fact-sheet-for-parents-anaphylaxis-nsw-other-languages
- Call an ambulance.
- Call the person’s emergency contact to let them know what has happened.
- Further adrenaline doses may be given (when available), if there is no response after 5 minutes.
If in doubt, administer the adrenaline auto-injector. Adrenaline is lifesaving and must be used promptlyiv.”
Getting a Diagnosis
“If parents suspect that their children may have allergies, it is best that you talk to your GP or paediatrician to discuss the proper diagnoses process,” Dr Rochford suggests. “This can involve a skin-prick test where an allergist or immunologist will test common allergens on your child’s skin under strict supervised conditions. Food triggers can be difficult to diagnose so it is important to work with your family doctor to document all possible triggers.”
“Preparedness is the key to managing allergies,” advises Dr Rochford. “If you or someone in your family has a diagnosed allergy, make sure you are aware of all their triggers and try to avoid as best possible. You can’t always avoid allergens so ensure that you are always close to your allergy medication (such as your prescribed adrenaline auto-injector or antihistamines).i”
“Building a supportive and understanding network around you will also help with allergy management. Talk to your children’s schools, childcare centre or your own workplace to let them know of the allergies, what the triggers are and discuss your allergy action plan (that is, what to do in the case of an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis). ASCIA (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy) has some useful resources to help allergic people and their doctor create an allergy action plans.”
“By making the people around you aware of your allergies they are then able to recognise the symptoms and can help out in an emergency situation.”
Some Steps You Can Take
- Checking all foods in house.
- Advising school, extracurricular activities, friend’s parents, etc of the allergy.
- Making safe choices at restaurants and food outlets.
Adrenaline Auto-injector Explained
“If you need to carry an adrenaline auto-injector for yourself or your children, make sure you know how to use the device,” advises Dr Rochford.
“There are different makes and models for adrenaline auto-injectors so check out ASCIA’s website to download step-by-step guides on how to use the adrenaline auto.”
Being Prepared as a Parent
“Preparedness is the key to managing allergies,” advises Dr Rochford. “If you or someone in your family has a diagnosed allergy, make sure you are aware of all their triggers and try to avoid as best possible. You can’t always avoid allergens so ensure that you are always close to your allergy medication, for example your prescribed adrenaline auto-injector or antihistamines.”
“And build a supportive and understanding network around you will also help with allergy management. “By making the people around you aware of your allergies they are then able to recognise the symptoms and can help out in an emergency situation.” See tip above.
Get Involved: Four Easy Ways to Support ‘Raise Your Hand for Anaphylaxis Awareness’
The ‘Raise your Hand for Anaphylaxis’ campaign (supported by Alphapharm, manufacturers of the Adrenaline Auto-Injector, EpiPen) aims to inform people about the importance of allergy and anaphylaxis awareness and preparedness. Here’s how you can help:
1. Head to ‘Raise your Hand for Anaphylaxis’ www.anaphylaxis101.com.au and click on the ‘Raise Your Hand’ button to show your allergy awareness and understanding of the seriousness of anaphylaxis – the most severe form of allergic reaction.
2. Encourage your school to support allergy and anaphylaxis awareness by nominating the school to compete to win the $10,000 or $5,000 education grant at www.anaphylaxis101.com.au. The education grant will help teachers to continue educating their students about allergy risks and management plans.
3. Speak to your children’s teachers. There are fantastic free resources for schools and teachers to help educate children about allergy and anaphylaxis. Visit www.anaphylaxis101.com.au
4. Spread the word. Regardless of whether or not your child has an allergy or anaphylaxis, you can easily encourage your school, friends and other parents to ensure better awareness, preparedness and understanding by sharing the www.anaphylaxis101.com.au resources, fact sheets and campaign links. Whether it’s via conversation, sharing the ‘Raise Your Hands’ campaign on Facebook, be it your own page, your school’s, sporting clubs, extracurricular activities, or on Twitter… wherever you can.
Share this article and visit www.anaphylaxis101.com.au, then click on the Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter buttons to share.
To make it easier, we wrote this for you to copy and paste into your Facebook share:
Hi everyone, the ‘Raise your Hand for Anaphylaxis’ campaign (www.anaphylaxis101.com.au) aims to educate parents, children, family and friends about the seriousness of allergy and anaphylaxis. They have brilliant educational resources for parents, teachers and schools, and children. They also have a campaign where you can ‘click’ on a button to ‘raise your hand’ and nominate our school to win a $5000 or $10,000 education grant, to help our teachers educate our children. We need as many ‘clicks’, or ‘raised hands’ nominating our school as we can to win the grant and encourage greater awareness about allergy and anaphylaxis. Your ‘raised hand’ is greatly appreciated.
Need More Info?
Visit the www.anaphylaxis101.com.au website to make use of the tools and resources available – including completing the “assess your risk” template to help initiate the allergy conversation with your doctor
What types of things do you do to minimise the risk of allergy exposure to your, or friend’s children?