Arm against allergies with St John Ambulance

female first aider careing for patient

St John Ambulance is supporting National Allergy Week from 11-16 May by encouraging everyone to learn how to treat severe allergic reactions, particularly those close to sufferers.

Recognising the signs

Around 40% of children now suffer from allergies and around half a million people have severe food allergies, according to figures from the Anaphylaxis campaign.

With summer around the corner, bringing the prospect of insect stings and the allergens associated with flowering plants, now is the ideal time to get trained in treating severe allergic reactions – otherwise known as anaphylaxis.

The Anaphylaxis first aid course covers how to recognise the signs of anaphylaxis, such as swelling of the throat, confusion and an itchy rash, dealing with unconsciousness and practice using both Anapen and EpiPen, the two types of auto-injector in common use. Auto-injectors deliver a dose of adrenaline to the casualty to slow down the dangerous physical symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as swelling of the airway.

The Anaphylaxis first aid course, developed in conjunction with Allergy UK, is the only way to be trained in life saving auto-injector use with St John Ambulance.

'I just wanted to go to sleep'

Mandy Marriott, aged 39 from London, knows how much of a difference a trained response can make. 'I was walking around the Chelsea Flower Show last summer when someone accidentally caught me in the face with a plant. I carried on walking, and noticed my eyes were sore and stinging – and people started to notice there was something wrong with my face. It had become red and blotchy. I was near the St John Ambulance stand and the first aiders there told me that we had to do something quickly as I was having an allergic reaction.

‘The doctor on duty asked me questions about my health to assess me then gave me an injection of adrenaline via an auto-injector. At this time I was feeling worse and worse; I felt sick, in pain and I didn't know what was happening. I just wanted to go to sleep. The St John Ambulance team gave me oxygen and got me into an ambulance to be sent to hospital. I'm so thankful that there was someone nearby who was trained in how to treat such a dangerous condition, and I'd encourage anyone who works with or knows someone with a severe allergy to get trained too. Don't leave it till you need it.'

For more information on allergies, contact the Allergy UK helpline on 01322 619898. To book a place on the Anaphylaxis first aid course, contact your local St John Ambulance branch on 08700 10 49 50.