If you read my recent blogs about travelling to Copenhagen you may have noticed that I was attending the European Academy for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) congress as a journalist. It was almost like being famous, I got access to this lovely quiet air-conditioned room with desks, internet access, charging points, iced water and sofas for interviewing.

I was a bit of an oddity for:

  • a) being a journalist who wanted to meet people, interview specialists and tweeted like mad about the experience and
  • b) for being one of the few delegates who actually had real live allergies!

It gave me such a fantastic insight into all the amazing work that is being done all across Europe. It often feels like we are lost in a sea of confusion, dead ends, brick walls and disappointment but believe me, when you see 7,800 doctors, allergists, dermatologists, nurses, clinicians and representatives from every country in Europe all learning, sharing and networking with one aim in mind – to improve the quality of life for people with allergies it is heartwarming.

One of the key themes that ran throughout the event was the huge unmet need, not just for actual allergy diagnosis and advice but also for the massive gap that opens up once you leave the hospital and try to get by in the big wide world. A world where allergies are still, despite the growing numbers who are diagnosed, poorly understood with no real appreciation for what it actually means and how life threatening they can be. The daily fears, planning, shopping and strategies that the allergic person or parents must employ just to stay safe and free from allergic reactions is immense. Only getting to know someone with allergies gives you a real insight into how it affects their lives.

EAACI have a campaign to try to shift this awareness called Beware of Allergy. The theme being to get across how trapped people with life threatening allergies can feel. They put a huge white box in the centre of Copenhagen for a day and journalists and the general public could take a turn at being ‘trapped’ in the box. The tagline, 150 million people are trapped by allergy is engaging but I think the campaign could have said so much more. It still has a long way to go and uses my least favourite word when discussing allergies, ‘sufferer’.

One of my interviews was with the President of EAACI, the very suave attractive Nikos Papalopadous. More on that later.

The event spans five days and has so much going on it’s almost mind blowing. At any one time there might be 20-30 seminars or key-note sessions you might attend, as well as the Allergy Bazaar where treatments, inhalers, auto-injectors and hay fever solutions were being demonstrated. There was also a large exhibition hall with various pharmaceutical, immunotherapy and allergy specialist companies. I visited the Meda stand the most, mainly because it had a free iphone charging pod!

There were also hundreds of ‘posters’ on display ranging from ticks causing meat allergy, analysis of the suitable of auto-injector needle length to PPD allergy studies and really unusual allergies like fish dependent exercise induced anaphylaxis! There were huge shocking pictures of people having anaphylactic reactions and there were hundreds of these posters.

Me by the winning poster, needle length analysis

Me by the winning poster

One that I was very pleased to see was Poster 698, a study by Stephanie Hobbins of Worcester NHS entitled,

‘Subcutaneous tissue precludes intramuscular injection in the majority of patients prescribed epinephrine auto injectors’.

Posters were judged each day at a set time when the representative for the poster answered questions from the judges. I was delighted when this one won an award for one of the best posters. Go Stephanie!

The poster discussed Stephanie’s research and made the following conclusions:

  • Jext and EpiPens have insufficient needle length to administer IM adrenaline to vastus lateralis in 68% of our patient group.
  • There is a strong correlation with increasing BMI and female gender with increasing STMD.
  • We would recommend that when Epiniphrin Auto-injectors (EAI)s are prescribed a bed side UltraSound should be performed to assess STMD and the best injection site determined. In Emergency Departments or Respiratory clinic this would be facilitated by the routine presence of hand held US equipment.
  • In cases where there is no suitable site located extra advice and training should be provided including recognising an anaphylactic reaction early, calling for help early and carrying two pens at all times.
  • Pharmaceutical companies need to consider producing EAIs with a range of needle sizes including longer needles. This will allow physicians to tailor their choice of needle size to the individual patient.

This is a subject very close to my heart since my thighs are borderline as to whether EpiPen or Jext would work. I had an ultrasound of my thigh to find this out as I was worried I never felt much effect when I used an injector. To find out more you can download the poster here.

I have so much I want to share with you all about this event but I am going to have to drip feed you otherwise this would possibly be the longest blog post in the history of blogging.
This is enough to whet your appetites. Watch out for interviews with EAACI President Nikos Papadopolous, Frans Timmermans President and CEO of the European Anaphylaxis Task Force, Dr Bill Frankland who has been one of my heros for years – the 102 year old allergy doctor who is still practising! I met Dr Andrew Clark, paediatric allergy doctor from Cambridge Addenbrooks Hospital and interveiwed him about his views on allergy and hopes for future treatments. I also have lots of interviews ‘in the bank’ so to speak. There wasn’t time at EAACI but I hope to meet or email some interview questions in the very near future to some other very interesting people!

Finally I cannot thank the lovely people at EAACI enough, who welcomed me to the event, helped me to make contact with potential interviewees and arranged most of my interviews for me while I swanned around attending as many seminars as I could in the four days I was there, tweeting as I went. Search for #EAACI2014 to see the hundreds of tweets made by delegates attending EAACI. There was a real buzz to the event.

It was great to meet a twitter connection, @AndrewAllergy from Homerton Hospital who I kept bumping into once we’d met and helped me to feel not quite so lost in the sea of unknown faces. There might be an interview there too – meet an allergy nurse! Day in the life of an allergy nurse! Andrew? You up for that?

Visit http://www.eaaci2014.com/ to find out more. Next year Barcelona and I already have my invite. This is great news as it means I have a year to plan a trip to Barcelona with maybe a holiday stitched before or after. I love Spain and actually hablo un poco espanol!

PS. the bag we got on registration was lovely… small things please me. The exhibition bag, ethically made by women in African and made of thick cloth was a highlight. I know. I’m sad.


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