Estimates vary as to how many people in the UK have an allergy that they need to take care to manage properly. The trend seems for more of us to be developing allergies so it’s sensible to understand how to identify, manage and treat them.

Disabled people may well be exposed to medicines and therapies with ingredients that they find themselves allergic to, furthermore they may not be able to communicate that they are experiencing an allergic reaction.

What is an allergy?

Generally speaking, an allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system to a particular substance as though it were harmful. For the most part, the things that people fi nd themselves allergic to are harmless, including foodstuffs (and medications).

Why are more of us developing allergies?

The reasons aren’t fully understood, not least because allergies tend to be numbered as exceptional to the individual, for instance, a person with a peanut allergy may be fine with other foodstuffs, including different types of nuts. One theory suggests that it’s the result of living in cleaner living environments where we are not required to build up immunity.

Why doesn’t everybody get allergies?

Allergies are not uncommon but you may be more likely to develop one if you have a family history of allergies – or have conditions such as asthma and eczema that are ‘triggered’ in similar ways to allergic reactions.

Allergies are more common in childhood. Some children will ‘grow out’ of them. Even so, adults can develop new allergies.

Managing allergies

Information, monitoring and identification can help people to understand and manage their allergies.

Prevention is important but this requires nailing down what you are actually allergic to in order to either avoid or treat the issue. Document where and when you have a reaction: what you were eating, what you came into contact with, what the environment was like, what time of day and what time of year and so on. It can all have a bearing.


If you have a known allergy that you may come into contact with, you should seek advice from your GP. If you are at a serious risk they may issue you with an EpiPen (emergency injector kit). The injector will provide a dose of epinephrine, a form of adrenalin. Learn how to use it and teach others too.

How to handle a severe allergic reaction

Most allergies present with symptoms such as mild rash, runny nose, itchy eyes or mild swelling. Nevertheless, severe reactions such as anaphylaxis are very dangerous and can be fatal without prompt action.

Away from the hospital environment, most anaphylaxis episodes are the result of food allergies.

First aid includes:

  • Remove the allergen where possible.
  • Help the patient to administer any (antiallergy) medication they may have been prescribed.
  • If swelling is present in the face or throat, dial 999 and call an ambulance since airways can become blocked in minutes.
  • Cold air can sometimes help to slow the reaction a little

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