NHS reports sharp rise in allergic reactions

More than an itch: A severe allergic reaction is called Anaphylaxis. © Getty

Are we in an allergy emergency? New figures show that more and more children need hospital treatment after suffering allergic reactions. Why are allergies getting more common?

What’s happening

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has revealed that 1,746 children were treated for severe allergic reactions last year. The number has risen every year since 2014.

It is not just a problem in the UK. Across the world, children are more likely than ever to develop food allergies.

Find out more

Allergic reactions happen when your immune system fights off a substance that it should see as harmless. Nuts, fish and milk are some common allergens.

Most allergic reactions can be treated easily with medication, but sometimes severe reactions can be life-threatening.

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse said that the rise in hospitalisation is “deeply alarming”. Her daughter Natasha died in 2016 after eating an olive baguette from Pret a Manger.

Since Natasha’s death, the UK has changed its laws so that restaurants will have to list every ingredient in their food. Experts hope that it will mean the tragedy does not happen again.

Around 7% of children in the UK and 9% of those in Australia have a food allergy, but the number is still rising.

Are we in an allergy emergency?

Some say…

Yes. Whether the cause — lack of vitamin D, pollution or another, as yet unknown reason — allergies are becoming more common around the world. It is important that we get to the bottom of the problem quickly — or more people will be at risk of dangerous reactions.

Others think…

There is no need to panic. While 7% of children have allergies, only 3% of adults do. Most children grow out of their allergies. The vast majority of allergies are only mild, so they are not really dangerous. It is important to be careful, but there is no need to call this an “emergency”.

You Decide

  1. What could be causing the rise in allergies?

Activities

  1. Design a poster explaining what an allergic reaction is, and what you should do if you have one. Illustrate and label your poster.

Some People Say...

“If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.”

Daniel Handler, US children’s author

What do you think?

Word Watch

Immune system
The part of your body that fights off infections and diseases.
Allergens
Things that someone can be allergic to.
Medication
Medicine.
Severe
Serious; extreme.
Hospitalisation
When someone needs to go to hospital.
Alarming
Worrying; scary.
Tragedy
Something very sad.
Majority
Most.

Subjects

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