26 April 2016 - Be Allergy Aware

Spring has finally sprung and for the vast majority the prospect of lighter nights and warmer weather is very welcome, but for others this time of year signals the start of ‘allergy season’ and the fight against watery eyes and sneezing.

As part of Allergy Awareness Week, happening between 25 April to 1 May, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) is offering advice on what to look out for and what to do when an allergic reaction occurs.

There are around 21 million allergy sufferers across the country that experience symptoms which irritates their sight, sense of smell, taste and touch. For the majority this is unpleasant and very annoying but usually does not require any emergency care and can be treated by seeking advice or medication from a GP or pharmacist, or by avoiding the cause of the reaction completely.

However, for a small minority, certain triggers such as insect bites, stings, foods and medication can prompt anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. Severe cases can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure and may be fatal if untreated or not treated fast enough. Signs to look out for include:

  • Swollen eyes, lips, hands and feet
  • Itchy skin or a raised, red skin rash
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint
  • Swelling of the mouth, throat or tongue, that can cause breathing and swallowing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency and those with a previous history of anaphylaxis will usually have an auto-injector of adrenaline or epi-pen, which should be given as soon as possible.

Duncan Robertson, Consultant Paramedic with NWAS said: “Last year the Trust received 4,200 emergency calls related to patients suffering with allergies, which increased by seven per cent on the previous year.

“Most allergic reactions are mild and patients should contact their GP or local pharmacist in the first instance to seek treatment. However, if someone is experiencing the symptoms of anaphylaxis then do call 999 for an ambulance, as this is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment.

“Anyone who has had an anaphylactic reaction previously will likely know the signs to look out for and try to manage exposure and avoid wherever possible. They should make sure that they check regularly that their epi-pens are in date and to see their GP for a new one if it has expired.”

For more details regarding allergies and anaphylaxis lots of useful information is available on the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk.