New research reveals the significant impact severe allergies have on people’s daily lives and mental wellbeing, as well as uncovering an evident lack of awareness about the proper use of adrenaline pens. The research was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of ready2reactuk, a new public awareness campaign supported by UK allergy groups and charities, the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), Allergy UK, Anaphylaxis UK and The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, together with, the global healthcare company Viatris.
The UK has some of the highest rates of allergic conditions in the world, with 44% of British adults having at least one allergy. Hospital admissions for allergy and anaphylaxis in England rose nearly 100% in the 20 years between 2001 to 2002 and 2021 to 2022, according to the NHS Digital’s Hospital Episode Statistics, Admitted Patient Care.
This is why the ready2reactuk campaign aims to educate patients prescribed adrenaline pens (also known as Adrenaline Auto Injectors), parents and carers, and the wider community about the correct use of adrenaline pens.
People living with severe allergies are at a high risk of experiencing anaphylaxis if they come into contact with an allergen. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that can come on suddenly and worsen very quickly, typically requiring urgent medical attention and the use of an adrenaline pen.
However, the new report has found 1 in 4 surveyed people living with severe allergies don’t always carry an adrenaline pen on them and less than half (40%) would feel very confident using one in an emergency. Additionally, 68% of those surveyed were not aware of the exact expiry date for their adrenaline pen and 21% didn’t know adrenaline pens have an expiry date.
All types of allergies, when severe, can carry serious consequences and it’s concerning that across the spectrum, the knowledge around how to minimize the more significant risks, falls short for both healthcare professionals and patients. In the case of food allergies with a risk of anaphylaxis, the guidelines are very clear that people should always have two adrenaline pens. It’s alarming that this vital piece of life saving information isn’t always being communicated to patients.”
Simone Miles, Interim CEO, Allergy UK
Simon Williams, Chief Executive, Anaphylaxis UK, says: “There is a serious lack of education about allergies and the use of adrenaline pens, even among individuals who themselves have allergies or who are caring for children with allergies. Many people don’t even realize that adrenaline pens do go out of date, which will render them ineffectual. Imagine going into anaphylactic shock, only to discover your life-saving adrenaline pen has expired. The manufacturers of these pens do offer reminder services for this very purpose, but many people are unaware these services even exist.”
The ready2reactuk public awareness campaign, funded by Viatris Healthcare UK Ltd., is endorsed by a multidisciplinary steering committee made up of allergy specialists, healthcare professionals, charities, schools, and patients, striving to educate the public about allergies, anaphylaxis, and the use of adrenaline pens. The group includes the likes of ex-Love Island star Jack Fowler, who has a severe nut allergy himself, and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse OBE, Co-founder and Trustee of The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, who tragically lost her 15-year-old daughter to anaphylaxis in 2016.
Tanya Ednan-Laperouse OBE, Co-founder and Trustee of The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, says: “Everyone should know how to use an adrenaline pen. They are the first line of defence in an anaphylaxis emergency and aren’t difficult to administer, yet there is a misplaced fear surrounding them. We know that the number of people with allergies in the UK is rising, so too are the number of people being hospitalized from anaphylaxis. To keep people safe, we must educate the public about this life-threatening condition and change the narrative surrounding allergies.”
For those living with allergies, or caring for children who suffer from allergies, the condition can have a detrimental impact on their day-to-day lives and mental wellbeing. The research shows that 73% of surveyed people living with severe allergies say it has an impact to some or a great extent on their mental health, the mental health of their child or the mental health of the adult they care for. Allergies can hold people back from engaging in everyday activities, such as going to restaurants, on holiday, or even attending work or school. For parents, managing a child’s allergies can prove equally challenging. 52% of parents surveyed living with children with severe allergies reported that it always or sometimes impacts their work. 68% also reported that their child’s allergy always or sometimes impacts their school attendance.
Dr Rebecca Knibb, Associate Professor in Health Psychology at Aston University, says: “Severe allergies have a huge impact on both patients and their loved ones. We know from the research we have been doing over the last 25 to 30 years that severe food allergies do have a significant impact on quality of life – both socially and emotionally. Patients report feeling like they must live on constant high-alert, always fearful of encountering potential allergens, or feeling anxious when around strangers or new acquaintances who may not know how to react should they go into anaphylactic shock.”