Survey results for

August/November: Allergies and Eczema

If you had eczema as a child, or are caring for a child with eczema, you’ll know that you are more likely to also have allergies or sensitivity to foods such as eggs, nuts, dairy, and wheat. You may also be prone to airborne allergies such as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Whilst the link between these conditions has been established, more scientific research is being undertaken with the aim of finding ways to help patients manage their condition better. We recently (September 2017) ran a survey in order to hear the patient perspective to see how closely the two are linked and how supportive the medical profession are in acknowledging and helping people with these two conditions. These results were published in a dedicated supplement within the Daily Mail. To see the full article please click here.

SURVEY INSIGHTS AND OVERVIEW

Concentrating purely on those survey participants who stated they either have eczema or have had it in the past, of which there were 636, a significant percentage also reported on having or experiencing some type of allergy. When asking the medical profession about a formal diagnosis or a connection between their eczema and their allergy symptoms, just under half were told that both their eczema and their allergy were connected. The most common allergy reported was hay fever, with 83% of people with eczema also stating they lived with some form of hay fever.

The second most reported allergy, but significantly lower at 41%, was food allergy, with dairy products accounting for just over half of those who recorded a food allergy. Once people had a flare up with their allergy, regardless of the type of allergy, roughly 8 out of 10 people said they experienced an issue with their eczema which became notably worse, or they experienced a flare up.

People found that managing the two issues together was very difficult to cope with, although managing eczema was deemed slightly the more difficult condition to control than an allergy. Experiences with the medical profession were certainly mixed, with only the minority receiving lots of helpful information, over half receiving some support and 1 in 3 receiving absolutely no information or further support about either their eczema or allergy. This was also reflected in the onward referral to a consultant with just a third being referred on for more in-depth and specialist treatment.

It would seem though, if you are one of the luckier ones to have been referred onwards, you would be offered an allergy test. It was at this point that just over half were then provided with a formal diagnosis of the connection between their eczema and their allergy along with a list of identifiable allergens that could trigger their eczema. To get to this stage of diagnosis took, for some, a number of years. Having been given a formal diagnosis and a list of potential triggers, it would seem in general that the advice given was just to avoid these to better manage your skin.

One of the most frightening aspects of having an allergy is the possibility of having an anaphylactic shock, which can result in very serious consequences, and in some cases death.

An anaphylactic shock is when someone experiences an allergic reaction to something, such as a sting from a bee, or something they have eaten. The symptoms are marked by how either rapidly they take effect on the person or how the condition worsens, causing one or more of the following symptoms, swelling of the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, an itchy rash, being physically sick and suffering from feeling faint or lightheaded.

The survey found that nearly 1 in 10 people that have eczema and allergies have experienced an anaphylactic shock. However from this ‘at risk’ category, 5% had not even heard of what an anaphylactic shock was. Of the people that had experienced an anaphylactic shock, just over half were offered an auto injector (a medical device that is designed to administer specific drugs), 23% were prescribed an alternative treatment and 26% were offered no other form of treatment.

Lastly, survey participants were asked about their opinion of the professional medical advice they were offered. Over half felt their GPs were not trained adequately to be able to diagnose and offer support around the impact of allergies on eczema.

The results of the survey are extremely alarming and conclude the necessity for further education and awareness to be provided to the healthcare professionals in order they can recognise the relationship between the two conditions. Also more education must be provided to those with eczema so they can better understand the close connection between the two conditions and to be alert for any signs of allergic reactions.

Very many of those who responded to the survey said they would like to be contacted regarding the results of this survey. We would like to thank everyone who participated in this survey.

If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.