EAACI Allergy Awareness Campaign

Are you “trapped by allergy”? A new allergy awareness campaign has arrived in Europe that focuses specifically on food allergy and anaphylaxis during the next two months.

The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), which hosted the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting I attended in Dublin last fall, launched its allergy awareness campaign in June 2014. It started in Copenhagen, where EAACI hosted its annual congress, using a street marketing campaign that featured the message of people being “trapped by allergy.”

“Allergy is a condition that affects people’s lifestyle and ability to work. An allergic person can fear insignificant things with which we come into contact on a daily basis, such as plants, pets, insects, food or drugs, and this leads them to feel trapped in their condition.” —EAACI President Nikolaos G. Papadopoulos

For more information about the June 2014 launch of this campaign, check out EAACI’s press release or see the video below that highlights the street campaign in Copenhagen.


EAACI’s Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Wave

On March 9, 2015, EAACI released a third press release (the second press release focused on asthma) to begin the food allergy and anaphylaxis wave of its allergy awareness campaign.

In all, EAACI estimates that over 17 million Europeans have a food allergy. Furthermore, it reports that 1 out of every 20 children has at least one food allergy. Over the last decade, food allergy cases have doubled, with a 7-fold increase in the number of hospitalizations caused by severe allergic reactions. Given these numbers, EAACI finds that “more awareness and education is needed to improve management of food allergies and anaphylaxis.”

During March and April 2015, according to the campaign website, EAACI will have an online campaign targeting five countries: Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. It also plans to disseminate printed materials via primary care organizations, patient organizations, national allergy societies and pharmacist organizations.

What are your initial thoughts on EAACI’s allergy awareness campaign? I’m curious to hear what you think about it. Please leave a comment below, when you have the chance. I’ll continue to share information via Facebook and Twitter, as I learn more about this campaign.

Finally, if you are interested in getting involved with this EAACI’s campaign, check out the campaign website for additional resources and information.

Beware of Allergy

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Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting 2014: Dublin, Ireland

As a parent of a child with food allergies, I am always seeking out the latest news and research in an effort to improve my son’s overall health and quality of life. For this reason, I attended Europe’s leading conference on food allergies: the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (FAAM) in Dublin, hosted by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). With about 600 participants from roughly 50 countries, the multidisciplinary seminars at FAAM 2014 covered various topics related to managing food allergies, as well as prevention and finding a cure.

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EAACI represents doctors, researchers and other medical professionals. It has over 7,800 individual members and also works with National Societies and patient organizations, such as the aha! Swiss Allergy Center in Bern. Most recently, I wrote about EAACI’s efforts to raise awareness of food allergies via a written declaration on allergic disease presented before the European Parliament.


FAAM 2014: A Few Highlights

The FAAM 2014 seminars spanned over three days, and nearly 200 abstracts were presented as part of the conference. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll notice that these seminars will be informing many of my future blog posts, as well as the management of our son’s allergies (e.g., requesting a consultation with a nutritionist). In the meantime, I just wanted to share a few of the key findings presented at the conference that I found especially interesting.

Public Policy

  • Mr. Jerry Buttimer TD (Ireland), a member of the Irish Parliament, said that if President Barack Obama can sign into law a bill encouraging schools in the United States to have access to epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) auto-injectors, then surely a similar law could be passed across Europe. Mr. Buttimer was referring to the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (H.R. 2094), which enables states to pass legislation requiring schools to carry “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors for emergency use.

Socioeconomic Costs

  • Dr. Audrey Dunn Galvin (Ireland), a registered physiologist and lecturer at the University College Cork, presented her research on the socioeconomic cost of food allergies. She discussed the high levels of stress and anxiety that parents can experience due to the constant monitoring of their child’s food allergies. In particular, she discussed how parents must balance the need to protect their child’s environment, while ensuring their positive development. In addition, she mentioned several recent studies socioeconomic costs, including a study of adults with food allergies in Sweden.

Oral Food Challenges

  • Dr. Carina Venter (United Kingdom) talked about food challenges as the best way to identify a true food allergy, and questioned the reliability of self-reported data to determine the prevalence of food allergies. Overall, she stressed the need for more and better data on food allergy prevalence, particularly to evaluate changes over time. As part of her presentation, Dr. Venter discussed her research on trends in the prevalence of peanut allergies in the UK.
  • Dr. Galvin’s research on the socioeconomic impact of food allergies found that routine oral food challenges help to improve health-related quality of life for families living with food allergies. From our own experience, I certainly find this to be true, as food challenges have either allowed us to introduce new foods into our son’s diet or have provided us with greater knowledge and awareness of his allergies, even though he didn’t “pass” the test.

Anaphylaxis

  • Dr. Margitta Worm (Germany) discussed her research examining an anaphylaxis registry for German-speaking countries, including Switzerland. Her study found that adrenaline was rarely used. More specifically, for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis among 197 children and adolescents between 2006 and 2009, adrenaline was used in only 22 percent of the registered cases.

Oral Immunotherapy

  • Dr. Kirsten Beyer (Germany) described oral immunotherapy (OIT) as a promising treatment for allergies, but highlighted that it is not yet ready for clinical practice. She said that many different protocols exist for OIT, which makes it difficult to compare results and assess its effectiveness. Generally, researchers agree on three primary phases for this treatment: 1) a starting dose, 2) dose escalation and 3) a maintenance dose. During her presentation, she cited a recent study on the side effects of OIT for peanut allergy.

You can also review the tweets from other FAAM 2014 participants by searching for the event hashtag via Twitter: #FAAM2014.


EAACI Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Guidelines

Throughout FAAM 2014, presenters referred to the EAACI Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Guidelines, which were published earlier this year. The purpose of these guidelines is to translate knowledge of food allergies into clinical practice, and in particular, for such areas as diagnosis and management, prevention, quality of life and anaphylaxis. EAACI included a hard copy of these guidelines as part of the printed materials I received during the conference, and I will be sharing what I learn as I review them. While the full document is only available for EAACI members to download, sections of the guidelines are also via the EAACI website.

I will continue to provides updates on the research presented at FAAM 2014, and next week, I also plan on sharing a recipe from our excursion to Northern Ireland. Bon week-end, everyone! Thanks for your continued support.

Traveling to Dublin: Food Allergy Conference

I’m in the final stages of packing for our family trip to Dublin, in part so I can attend the third annual Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (FAAM) 2014 presented by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). For every trip we take—no matter where we’re going and especially if we’re flying—I prepare a “food bag” for my son with allergy-friendly treats and back-up meal options. Today, I made madeleines in the morning, and a batch of saffron buns just came out of the oven.

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Allergy-friendly food for my son, sans dairy and (raw/undercooked) eggs

FAAM 2014 will be a great opportunity for me to hear from allergists working throughout Europe. To give you some background info on this conference, according to the EAACI website:

“The FAAM 2014 scientific programme has three integrated and complimentary plenaries, presenting the basic, translational and clinical science of food allergy and anaphylaxis. The final plenary weaves these themes together addressing how we hope to help patients move from merely controlling their food allergy – which is difficult for them – to a cure – which is proving difficult for us.”

For those on Twitter, I’ll take a stab at live-tweeting from the event, providing highlights of what’s being presented and by whom. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn in Dublin in the coming days and weeks.

By the way, if you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or products in Dublin (or Belfast), please leave a comment below! Thanks in advance for your help.

European Parliament Doesn’t Adopt Allergic Disease Declaration

Tuesday, January 21 was the last day for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to support a written declaration on allergic disease, and it was not adopted. For the declaration to pass, a majority of MEPs needed to sign their name to it. In all, the declaration received 177 signatures—over 200 votes short of being adopted by the European Parliament.

What does this all mean? Here’s a little background info:

  • Switzerland­: Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, and therefore does not elect a member of the European Parliament, one of the organizations actively supporting this declaration is based in Zurich—the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).
  • Written Declaration 0022/2013 and food allergies: This declaration includes all types of allergic disease, such as allergic rhinitis and food allergies. As written in the declaration, “More than 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies or severe allergies implying a risk of acute attacks or anaphylaxis with life-threatening potential.” Eleven MEPs proposed the declaration in October 2013, which began a 3-month period to collect signatures for its adoption.
  • What the declaration asked for: The declaration focuses on the need to recognize the burden of allergic disease and address the “diagnosis gap,” as about 50 percent of people with allergies are undiagnosed, according to a recent EAACI press release. Specifically, the two-page declaration outlines the following activities:

“to encourage cooperation and coordination between Member States to promote: national allergy programmes to reduce the disease burden and health inequalities; training in allergies and multidisciplinary care plans to improve disease management; use of preventive and tolerance-inducing approaches to allergy treatment; and scientific research into direct and indirect allergy risk factors, including pollution;” (p. 2).

In my opinion, it’s disappointing that more MEPs did not support Written Declaration 0022/2013. The declaration doesn’t require major reforms, but rather what seems like an incremental approach to addressing allergic disease in the European Union. The specific activities listed for Member States to promote, such as national allergy programs or preventive and tolerance-inducing treatments, do not appear controversial.

Furthermore, written declarations as a policy tool have relatively limited influence. Approved declarations only apply to those MEPs who have signed on. In other words, even if a majority of MEPs approve the declaration, it still doesn’t represent the official position or serve as a legally binding document for the entire European Parliament.

“A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words relating exclusively on a matter falling within the competence of the European Union. They do not, however, bind Parliament, that is, they cannot be considered as an act of the Parliament representing its position, but only those of its authors and signatories.” –European Parliament/Plenary website, see Written Declarations

While the European Parliament didn’t adopt this declaration, the campaign for this effort helped raise awareness of allergic disease, including food allergies. For example, EAACI organized three days of skin prick tests in the European Parliament. In all, 350 people were tested, and 47 percent had positive test results.

Video source: EAACI Headquarters

Earlier today, EAACI and the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) in Brussels released a joint press release. It contained the following statement from EAACI’s President:

“Allergic diseases should be included in initiatives concerning chronic diseases at national and European level. The European Commission has the capacity to coordinate efforts to respond to the challenges of chronic diseases. Now is the time to act!” -Professor Nikos Papadopoulos, EAACI President

If you have any questions or information to provide about Written Declaration 0022/2013, please leave a comment below. In the meantime, I’ll continue to share public policy updates related to food allergies for Switzerland and beyond as they come up. Bon week-end!