The im­por­tance of be­ing ‘Al­lergy Aware’

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - Front Page -

Aus­tralia has one of the high­est rates of food al­ler­gies in the de­vel­oped world with an ex­po­nen­tial in­crease of food al­lergy over the last 10-15 years which now ac­counts for 1 in ev­ery 500 hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions for chil­dren aged 5-14.

Stephanie Kennedy, Yar­ra­wonga Health’s Op­er­a­tional Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, said al­ler­gic re­ac­tions to food could rapidly be­come life threat­en­ing, so it was es­sen­tial for peo­ple to know the signs and symp­toms of when a food al­lergy oc­curs and how to pro­vide emergency treat­ment.

“Al­lergy and Ana­phy­laxis Aus­tralia is call­ing on Aus­tralian’s to join to­gether for one week from May 14 to 20, to ‘Be Aware Show You Care’ and aims to raise com­mu­nity un­der­stand­ing of food al­ler­gies,” Stephanie said.

“One in 10 ba­bies born in Aus­tralia to­day will de­velop a po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing food al­lergy.

“Th­ese families live with the life­style re­stric­tions th­ese al­ler­gies bring on a day to day ba­sis.”

Mul­wala res­i­dent Lett Na­gle knows of the se­ri­ous­ness of food al­ler­gies only too well, as her three-year old son Sonny suf­fers from se­vere al­ler­gies to both eggs and peanuts.

Th­ese al­ler­gies were di­ag­nosed when Sonny was be­tween six and 14 months of age and have re­sulted in mul­ti­ple re­ac­tions the most se­vere of which was ana­phy­laxis, a rapid on­set of throat or tongue swelling, low blood pres­sure and short­ness of breath which can re­sult in a lack of oxy­gen and dam­age to vi­tal or­gans such as the brain.

Lett and Sonny now carry an epi-pen, an in­jec­tion con­tain­ing a chem­i­cal to re­verse the ef­fects of ana­phy­laxis, with them wher­ever they go.

“We have four epi-pens, they are in places such as the car and the grand­par­ent’s house to en­sure we al­ways have one near Sonny,” Lett said.

“A lot of the time peo­ple don’t re­alise how se­ri­ous th­ese al­ler­gies are for Sonny and how eas­ily he can have a re­ac­tion, even from slight traces of eggs or peanuts left on cloth­ing or bed sheets.”

Food al­ler­gies can be iso­lat­ing for families, as at times the risk of ex­po­sure to an al­ler­gen can seem to be too great.

It can be dif­fi­cult for families with a child who suf­fers from a se­vere al­lergy to so­cialise and take part in nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties, and Lett said that sit­u­a­tions around other peo­ple who aren’t as aware are dif­fi­cult as there are a lot of mis­con­cep­tions about food al­ler­gies.

“This af­fects our ev­ery­day life, I get anx­i­ety tak­ing him out of our four walls, go­ing to the park, su­per­mar­ket, eat­ing out or get­ting take­away and I dread the day that he gets in­vited to a drop-off party,” Lett said

“I’d like to give peo­ple some more in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing th­ese al­ler­gies as I’ve pre­vi­ously been brushed off and told that it’s not a big deal”.

Lett and Sonny at­tend the out­pa­tient clinic at the Royal Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Mel­bourne ev­ery six months for fur­ther test­ing.

“We were told that by the age of six we will know whether this is a life­time al­lergy or not as a lot of chil­dren will grow out of it, how­ever un­for­tu­nately for Sonny, his al­ler­gies are get­ting worse at each 6-monthly test so this is un­likely in his case,” Lett said.

“The more peo­ple who are ed­u­cated in our com­mu­nity, the bet­ter we are able to deal with this se­ri­ous health con­di­tion as I’m not al­ways go­ing to be in con­trol of ev­ery move Sonny makes and he, and oth­ers like him, will need to be ed­u­cated and sup­ported.”

Food Al­lergy Aware is en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to paint one fin­ger­nail to sym­bol­ize the one in 10 ba­bies born with a food al­lergy to raise aware­ness from May 14 to 20.

Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Al­lergy Aware­ness Week can be found at www.foodal­ler­gyaware.com.au .

Lett also hopes to in­crease aware­ness and pro­vide sup­port to other families who have chil­dren with food al­ler­gies and can be con­tacted via email let­te­ri­ana­gle@out­look.com.

Lett Na­gle, pic­tured here with her son Sonny, hopes to raise aware­ness of se­ri­ous food al­ler­gies.

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