Oct 30, 2015

Witches and monsters aren't as scary as having to be prepared for the worst

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With Halloween just around the corner, parents all over the country are prepping pumpkins, buying costumes, and stocking up on ghoulish treats. But for those parents of children with severe food allergies, Halloween can truly be a scary time of year.

It's no secret that childhood allergies are on the rise and advice on avoiding them can be varied, but when it comes to life post-diagnosis, a whole new battle begins.1 A paper published this month found that parental confidence has a significant impact on a family's quality of life when living with a child with a food allergy.2

Healthcare professional or healthcare parent?

Nuts, eggs, peanuts and even milk can trigger anaphylaxis in those with severe allergies and Adrenaline Auto-Injectors (AAIs) are commonly prescribed.3 A study published earlier this year found that less than half of parents were able to administer adrenaline using a AAI in a simulated anaphylaxis scenario, despite receiving training just six weeks previously.4 So it's hardly surprising that having to be constantly equipped with an AAI can be a daunting prospect.

Parents taking part in the study were in a controlled environment, without experiencing the tension of a real-life scenario, so why was the failure rate so high? The study found that many parents fail to effectively administer adrenaline because they use the AAI incorrectly - all seemingly preventable mistakes for those with some training.4 But when faced with the prospect of saving your child's life, how can we tell parents to stop being a parent and start being a healthcare professional?

Is a good defence really the best offence?

In healthcare communications we're often spreading the message that prevention is better than a cure, and while that remains paramount for obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes - does the same apply to childhood allergies? The quality of life impact can be high, for both parents and child alike - it's been reported that these families tend to experience higher levels of social isolation, stress and anxiety.5

Commenting on the effect of food allergies on families for the Scientific American, Paediatric allergist John Lee, director of the Food Allergy Program at Boston Children's Hospital, states, "Food allergies can be terribly isolating," he says. "One parent told me his child was forced to sit all alone on a stage during lunch period. And siblings can feel resentful because in many cases parents don't feel they can take family vacations or even eat dinner in a restaurant."6

So how can we prevent, or minimise the stress associated with having a severe food allergy? Is avoiding all potential exposure to allergens really the best way to manage it? Research presented at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting found that building confidence in parents not only increases success rate, but also improves quality of life and mental health.7

Confidence injection

So where does this much needed parental confidence come from? And how can we, through medical communications, empower parents if the situation arises? The issue was raised in a paper by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in August 2015, advising the companies that market AAIs should develop more effective educational materials for patients and healthcare professionals.8

It's the role of the manufacturers to educate parents, via their HCP, to ensure products are being used effectively. And it's clear that this goes far beyond simple instructions of use for each device. The ability to cope is something that needs to be addressed. In times of pressure people respond well to protocol, and that's what AAIs are lacking - it needs a F.A.S.T stroke response or a Stop, Drop and Roll.

At ROAD Communications we are proud to have supported healthcare companies at both educate and empower both healthcare professionals and patients to take control of their allergies and manage them effectively. For more information on how we could support you contact Ruth Delacour on 0208 995 5832.