The allergy world is waking up to articles all over the news, focusing on a report titled 'Making Sense of Allergies' released by Sense About Science today.
The report focuses on how allergies need to be accurately diagnosed, with proven scientific based testing. The risk of not doing this, can result in malnourishment in supposed allergy sufferers. Allergists, consultants and allergy charities have worked with Sense About Science to bring the report together.
Bogus home testing kits are being blamed as the root cause of the issue, as they have no scientific basis.
The supposed outcomes from these kits are resulting in major food groups being cut out of diets, causing the serious issue of malnutrition.
ITV's 'Good Morning Britain', The Guardian, and The Telegraph are the key articles doing the rounds this morning, with the article from The Telegraph seeming to ruffle the most feathers within the allergy world.
The tone of the article suggests that allergies are nowhere near as prevalent as believed, due to:
'40% of people claim to have a food allergy, only 5% actually do'
and follows swiftly with:
'Cutting out entire food groups because of needless concerns about allergies'
This has understandably caused a fairly substantial wave of anger for true allergy sufferers.
In just a few short hours I have received numerous emails and texts asking what my views are, and whether it is a 'fair' representation.
Any allergy parent will tell you that concerns about allergies are most certainly not 'needless'. Watching your little ones suffer a reaction is the hardest thing to witness. Hives, wheezing, vomiting, extreme diarrhoea, eczema are all symptoms of a reaction, and not to be taken lightly. Add the struggle to breathe if entering anaphylaxis territory and it becomes terrifying.
The Guardian on the other hand has got a much more balanced and fairer handle of the situation:
'It's probably the biggest mess for science communication, where myths, misinterpreted studies and quackery collide with under-and over - diagnosis. The costs are huge - unnecessary actions for some and not enough action for those whose lives depend on it' (Tracey Brown, Director of Sense About Science)
although their comment of:
'A child who can't eat wheat or drink milk can't go to parties'
is totally inaccurate! Why on earth would true allergies to wheat and dairy result in being unable to attend parties? If sensible, and you plan ahead, of course a child can still attend parties, as I describe how to achieve successfully here!
The article also mentions how eating out has become much more difficult. Chefs find it much harder to cater easily for allergy sufferers due to the fact that many people claim to have an allergy, when actually it is a life style choice.
This was a very hot topic a couple of months ago with the 'Top 100 chefs'. Living first hand with allergies, I can see both sides. It's not easy for restaurants to cater for allergies, but training and understanding helps enormously. Equally, it's not easy to eat out without worrying where the next reaction will come from.
Fuel has been added to the already raging allergy fire following the comments made by Dr Hilary Jones during Good Morning Britain:
'Don't assume that your symptoms are due to allergy or intolerance. You can go and talk to your doctor, and if there is a clinical reason, have a blood test on the NHS. Don't restrict or withdraw all kinds of food groups'
Oh dear, if only it was that easy!
The NHS will not give blood tests just by asking, believe me, I tried for 16 months before I was able to get them done for Callum.
As to restricting/ withdrawing food groups - when you first see your doctor and query allergies/ intolerance, the first thing you are asked to do is keep a food diary. If a pattern starts to show, you are then asked to remove from your diet. At no point is a blood test agreed to - nor any allergy testing!
Unfortunately, this whole sorry situation is most likely due to the lack of understanding, and also sadly budget, within the NHS.
It is the result of desperate parents, who are battling to get listened to! They describe their children's symptoms, to no avail, attending doctor appointment after doctor appointment, presenting in secondary care (often as an emergency) and still don't get anywhere.
Groupon regularly advertise 'food intolerance testing' at a supposed massive reduction. If a desperate parent, sleep deprived, and worried beyond belief for their little one, the chances are they will resort to anything to find some sort of solution!
The key to turning all of this around, as I have said many many times before, is to provide the NHS with the tools to fix this situation.
They need to have a bigger budget so that correct, accurate and scientifically proven testing can take place. The doctors, consultants, dieticians, nutritionists, health visitors all need to have extra training provided to them so that they recognise the symptoms associated with allergies.
I applaud the release of this report from Sense About Science. It is much needed, and gives a true depiction of what is happening within the allergy world.
I really hope that the situation can now be improved, and that the NHS gets the support it needs to support the allergy world where it needs it most!