Sharp increase of allergy cases reported at region’s hospitals in the last five years
- Credit: PA
Allergy diagnoses across East Anglia have more than doubled in the last five years – and experts say the rise shows no sign of abating.
New figures from NHS Digital show the region's six acute hospitals treated around 1,550 cases of allergy or anaphylactic shock in 2015/16, compared to just 758 in 2011/12.
Dr John Chapman, a consultant paediatrician with an interest in allergy, described it as a 'sharp increase'.
An allergy is a reaction the body has to a particular food or substance, while an anaphylactic shock is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can develop rapidly.
The figures reveal the number of hospital admissions for allergy and anaphylactic shock at East Anglia's six acute hospitals has risen by 104pc in just five years.
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There were 25 recorded cases at the James Paget University Hospital in 2011/12, but 90 in 2015/16 – a rise of 260pc.
And the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital experienced a rise of 40pc (from 66 to 92 cases), while the Queen Elizabeth Hospital's figures were consistent throughout the five years. The numbers do not necessarily mean the exact number of patients because some patients may have returned to hospital.
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Dr Chapman, who works at the James Paget, said a cleaner lifestyle was a factor in the rise.
'The more varied bacteria we have inside us the more we keep our body's allergy system busy fighting them,' he added. 'We're getting less exposure to bacteria now.'
He said having contact with animals, not taking antibiotics as a child, and even washing up by hand could help prevent allergies from developing.
'I would expect the figures to keep rising,' he added.
Meanwhile a national charity said research was ongoing to understand the increases in allergy, which it described as 'potentially a serious and debilitating condition'.
Amena Warner, head of clinical services at Allergy UK, said: 'We know that allergic disease is increasing. Modern lifestyles, our tendency to spend more time indoors, and under-use of our natural immune systems may all play their part.
'Increasing awareness and recognition among frontline healthcare professionals of allergic disease is crucial so that people who do suffer from symptoms suggestive of allergy can get the right diagnosis and treatment.
Man has rare mint allergy
As he started to brush his teeth, little did Ben Cronin know it would lead to him being rushed to A&E.
Standing in his bathroom, Mr Cronin, of Lowestoft, began feeling unwell as his throat swelled, his body itched, and he started sweating.
His condition worsened and an ambulance took him to hospital, after receiving initial treatment by paramedics.
At hospital it emerged Mr Cronin has an extremely rare allergy to mint, and his allergic reaction had been caused by his parents' toothpaste leaking on to part of his toothbrush.
Since the incident – in April – Mr Cronin has had to be extremely careful to avoid coming into contact with substances that contain mint.
'I have had little blips but nothing serious,' he said yesterday.
'I take one strong antihistamine tablet every day, and I am also seeing consultants at Addenbrooke's Hospital, who are giving me little tips.
'The biggest problem is taking medicine because not all pharmaceutical companies are clear about whether or not there is mint in their product.'
What are people allergic to?
Dr John Chapman said there were a range of common allergies that people can suffer from.
The most usual substance to be allergic to is milk, followed by eggs and peanuts.
Allergy towards certain types of fish such as cod is also normal, as well as wheat - though this is different from coeliac disease.
Dr Chapman said humans could be allergic to virtually any substance as long as it contains protein.
Allergies affect approximately one in three of the UK's population at some point in their lives.
Allergy UK estimates that the numbers are increasing by 5pc with as many as half of all those affected being children.
Dr Chapman said: 'If you've eaten something that makes your mouth feel funny or gives you shortness of breath then you should contact your GP to try to get some form of allergy testing.'
But if a person only feels very minor discomfort then it is recommended that they either ring 111, the non-emergency NHS helpline, or avoid the substance again.
Symptoms of allergy include sneezing, or an itchy, runny, or blocked nose, or swollen lips or tongue.If a person comes into contact with a substance they are allergic to then there is a danger they could go into anaphylactic shock - which is the most severe form of allergic reaction and requires immediate medical assistance.
Symptoms include life-threatening airway and/or breathing difficulty.
Blood pressure can drop rapidly causing dizziness/fainting.
There is usually swelling and a red raised itchy rash that can develop after the other symptoms or at the same time.
A variety of treatments for allergies can be given, with antihistamine among the most common drug to take to combat the condition.
For more information on Allergy UK call 01322 619898.