Charity Warns Allergy Sufferers Face Dangerous Misconceptions
As the charity marks 25 years of supporting allergy sufferers it reveals that despite greater awareness common misconceptions still remain as strong as a quarter of a century ago. Allergy UK found that of 41% of those surveyed, who either have an allergy or have children who have allergic disease, almost half feel their allergies have not been taken seriously or have been dismissed when speaking about it. Shockingly, 39% say they have had their allergy dismissed at work, followed by within the home (35%) and at a restaurant (33%).
The alarming results, which mark the start of Allergy Awareness Week, also revealed that almost a third of individuals surveyed without the condition admit they are sceptical when someone says they suffer from an allergy. The respondents state they have heard derogative terms used to describe individuals with an allergy, such as ‘attention seeker’ (24%) and ‘fussy’ (20%). Despite the fact that allergy can be a chronic and life-threatening condition, 40% say they don’t think allergy is a valid reason to be off work. And almost one in ten (7%), or over 4.4 million, people in Britain do not consider an allergy to be a serious medical condition.
Lindsey McManus, Deputy CEO, Allergy UK says: "Our research shows the extent of the misunderstanding surrounding allergy in 2016. Despite the progress made over the last 25 years in allergy awareness, these new results highlight the reality of the condition is still not understood by the general public and attitudes haven’t moved with the times. These misconceptions and harmful judgements are often more difficult for the UK’s 21 million allergy sufferers to live with than the practical aspects of managing the condition."
Our research shows the extent of the misunderstanding surrounding allergy in 2016. Despite the progress made over the last 25 years in allergy awareness, these new results highlight the reality of the condition is still not understood by the general public and attitudes haven’t moved with the times. These misconceptions and harmful judgements are often more difficult for the UK’s 21 million allergy sufferers to live with than the practical aspects of managing the condition.
Allergy UK warns that these misconceptions are not only unfair to those coping with allergy but also potentially dangerous. Allergic disease is potentially fatal, with hospital admissions in England for allergic reactions soaring to more than 20,000 each year. Over 60% of these are emergencies.
Josh Abbott, 24, is anaphylactic to nuts, as well as having an allergy to barley and contact dermatitis to perfume’: "I wish people without allergies could walk a day in my shoes to see how hard it is. Four years ago I had to give up my apprenticeship at a barbers because I couldn’t be near to the products."
I wish people without allergies could walk a day in my shoes to see how hard it is. Four years ago I had to give up my apprenticeship at a barbers because I couldn’t be near to the products.
Josh experiences ignorance towards his allergies on a daily basis, he explains: "People say I’m exaggerating and just want attention. Recently someone was joking about throwing a peanut at me just to see what happens. If he had really done this I fear it could have been fatal. This is something completely out of my control. I’m not asking people to feel sorry for me, but I wish they would try and understand."
Lindsey McManus continues: “Not only is an allergic reaction terrifying, it is very real and can be serious. If someone fails to recognise the symptoms and take it seriously, the consequences could be fatal. Imagine never dining out because you fear the restaurant might inadvertently put your life at risk by serving food you are allergic to – or caring for your new born baby, who is constantly screaming in pain due to an allergic reaction to cow’s milk.”
The research also revealed a knowledge gap in the public understanding of what constitutes ‘allergy’. When asked what symptoms are associated with an allergic reaction, people in Britain incorrectly identified psoriasis (25%), chest pain (32%) and acne (18%) as signs of the condition.
Something Josh Abbott knows all about. He says: “If I was to suddenly go into anaphylactic shock from exposure to nuts in public I doubt anyone around me would recognise the symptoms or even know what to do. That really scares me. I wish people knew how it feels on a daily basis to rely on strangers to potentially save your life.”
The charity is calling for better public awareness of the condition to help more people recognise the true symptoms of an allergic reaction. However, since Allergy UK first formed in 1991 the charity has seen positive developments in allergy in recent years and almost eight in ten (78%) respondents feel that support for allergy sufferers has improved over the last 25 years.
Allergy Awareness Week runs from 25th April – 1st May 2016. During the week we will be raising awareness of hay fever, asthma, food allergy, skin allergies and anaphylaxis. For support, information and advice call our helpline on 01322 619898 or visit: www.allergyuk.org.