Congratulations on your recent school trips with Emma Wileman on your ‘Best to Test Campaign awareness linking allergies and asthma.
1. What is the connection between allergies and asthma?
Asthma affects 1.1 million children and millions more adults. There are many things which can trigger an asthma attack but allergy is by far the commonest. Some 90% of asthma sufferers also suffer from allergies, allergies for example, to pollen (which can cause hayfever as well) to pets, to mould and to various types of food.
2.What advice would you offer parents with children with acute asthma when it comes to food?
There may be many different trigger factors which can initiate an attack of asthma. Some may be obvious but some may be more difficult to discern. It is always worth finding out if a food allergy could be responsible because if it is it can be easily avoided and because occasionally worsening symptoms may be the first sign that a very serious allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis might occur.
These reactions can threaten lives. There is a very straightforward blood test available on the NHS which measures specific antibodies to certain foods which I recommend everybody with asthma should consider especially if the symptoms are worsening for no obvious reason.
3. Should there be a specific lifestyle change for allergy and asthma sufferers?
People who suffer from asthma should try to lead as normal a life as possible but if there is a specific food allergy that has been identified it can make a huge difference if this particular food is avoided. In some cases it can even potentially save a life. All people with asthma should try to keep fit and healthy to avoid their allergens, to take their treatment as prescribed and to consult their doctor if the treatment needs to be adjusted. Above all they should enjoy life just like everybody else. Many of our top Olympic athletes have experienced asthma after all.
4. Is there an ultimate cure for asthma in children or does it get better with age?
There is no cure for asthma as such and yes the majority of children do you grow out of it although in some cases it may return in older age or even develop for the first time in older age. The trick is to avoid as many trigger factors as you possibly can and to manage and treat the asthma maximally.
5. Haydn Wileman, Emma’s son who tragically died aged 9, due to anaphylactic shock caused by the combination of asthma and an allergic reaction to peanuts. What advice would you give to parents of asthmatic children that can help prevent future tragedies?
Remember the words ‘It’s best to test’. That is the name of the current campaign organised by the charity Haydn’s Wish. Haydn was just nine when he tragically lost his life to an overwhelming reaction to peanuts. His legacy is the charity. It would’ve been his wish that everybody with asthma whose symptoms are getting worse for no apparent reason. Whose response to treatment is reduced, and who may well have a food allergy is tested with a specific IgE blood test available today on the NHS. It’s best to test. That would be my advice.
– London Glossy’s Kelly Murphy interviews Dr Hilary Jones