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Lack of awareness over allergy symptoms

Greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction is necessary, research from Allergy UK has found.

Greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction is necessary among allergy sufferers, research from Allergy UK has found.

The researchers surveyed 1146 people with allergies on the effect the condition had on their lives. They found that there was confusion over the symptoms of allergic reactions, with 23% mistaking facial weakness for an allergic reaction, while 15% thouhgt pain down the arm was a symptom. It also highlighted a lack of awareness surrounding anaphylactic shock, with 44% of people saying that they did not know about the condition, despite the fact that it can be life-threatening. The research also found that 44% of respondents 'lived in fear' of the potentially deadly allergic reactions.

Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO of Allergy UK, said: 'Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction, which can be terrifying at best and fatal at worst. There is a concerning lack of awareness of this fatal condition. Thousands of people are being admitted to hospital every year and the number of sufferers is soaring. Yet allergy is still a relatively 'hidden' epidemic. More must be done to raise awareness of the deadly condition if lives are to be saved.'

Allergy UK is promoting a system of checks, called FEAR, to determine whether someone is suffering from an allergic reaction. FEAR stands for Face, Eyes, Airways and Rash, and recommends that all four should be examined for symptoms if an allergic reaction is suspected.

Amina Warner, allergy nurse advisor at Allergy UK, said: 'For primary care nurses, the key is recognising the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and knowing when to refer the patient for specialist help. Nurses must also ensure that patients who are prescribed medication and equipment such as adrenalin pens to manage their condition know how to use them. This means how to operate them, but also how to find the expiry dates of the medication.'

The researchers also surveyed also 2006 people without allergies, and found that 68% of respondents said they had 'no idea' of what to do if they saw someone suffering from an allergic reaction, while 66% said that they did not know how to use an adrenalin pen. A further 68% of people, said that they would be scared, hesitant or anxious about administering the jab. The 18 to 24 age group was particularly unaware of how to respond to an allergic reaction, with 74% of respondents lacking 'allergy awareness'.