Hospital Marks Allergy Week With Lifesaving Talk | Western Cape Government

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Hospital Marks Allergy Week With Lifesaving Talk

9 April 2013

To mark World Allergy Week, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital hosted a free talk for teachers and parents on 9 April, at 4pm, to inform them of 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 nine months old his grandmother tried a new soya formula. Unbeknown 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 (CPR) as well as how to give intramuscular adrenaline should he accidentally consume cow’s milk again.

Elliot is currently nine 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% 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. Professor Mike Levin, Head of the Allergy department at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's 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 childen 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.

Professor 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.”

Allergy Talk at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital

This is why the Allergy Clinic at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital hosted a free talk for teachers and parents on 9 April to inform them of 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,” Professor Levin said.

Media Enquiries: 

Lauren O’Connor-May
Principal Communications Officer
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Western Cape Government: Health
Tel: 021 658 5448
Fax: 021 658 5333
E-mail: lauren.o’