Britain

Children in hospital with severe allergic reactions up 72%

The number of children admitted to hospital with severe allergic reactions has jumped up 72% in five years, new figures show.

According to NHS Digital, there were 1,746 cases of anaphylactic shock among those aged 18 and under in 2018-19, compared to 1,015 in 2013-14.

The increase among children aged 10 and under was 200%, from 110 to 330, and London was the region with the biggest jump at 167% – from 180 to 480.

Image: Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died after suffering an allergic reaction from a sandwich from Pret a Manger

The data was obtained by a foundation set up by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a teenager who died after unknowingly eating sesame, which she was allergic to, in a sandwich from Pret a Manger.

Her mother Tanya Ednan-Laperouse said the "terrifying figures" showed the UK was facing an "allergy emergency".

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She added: "The number of children with allergies and suffering severe allergic reactions is rising year-on-year at a deeply alarming rate.

"Scientists don't yet understand why the numbers of children with allergies are on the rise, which is why it is vital that we invest in large-scale research projects into both the causes and potential cures."

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Natasha was 15 when she suffered the fatal allergic reaction on a flight between London and Nice in 2016, with the sesame seed in the baguette she had bought having not been listed on the label.

Her parents campaigned for legislation to make all pre-packaged food clearly marked and in June the government announced that "Natasha's Law" would do just that when it comes into force in 2021.

Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, outside West London Coroners Court, following the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, from Fulham, who died after she fell ill on a flight from London to Nice after eating a Pret A Manger sandwich at Heathrow Airport.
Image: Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex

The reaction Natasha suffered, anaphylaxis, causes symptoms such as breathing difficulties, wheezing, severe rashes, feeling light-headed or faint, and a fast heartbeat.

Common triggers include nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, eggs and some fruit, and experts believe children are more likely than ever to develop allergies to such foods.

Hasan Arshad, professor of allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Southampton, said: "These new figures confirm what we know is a worrying increase in severe food allergy.

"We should not forget that behind each of these numbers is a child or adult who has suffered the most severe consequences of an anaphylactic shock. For far too long, allergies have been considered a minor inconvenience. It is time for us all to focus on preventing and curing allergy."

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