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Travelling With Allergies: How to Plan Ahead

For many people, exploring new foods, landscapes, and ways of life through travel may be an experience like no other. But, if you have allergies, travelling can create an array of challenges in ensuring you can travel safely. Worrying about your allergies can cause unwanted stress and dissuade you from wanting to travel. However, your allergies should not mean you have to miss out on new and valuable experiences. Whether, it’s a short break to a nearby city or an extended break across continents, planning ahead can put your mind at ease when it comes to your allergies.

For example, if you suffer from hay fever, the time of year and destination can influence the likelihood of you reacting. Plan to travel at a time of year and to a destination with a low pollen count. This could greatly improve your experience. You may be allergic to certain types of pollen that do not exist in other countries. Or, their blooming period may be different, due to diverse climates. This could offer the perfect opportunity for you to travel abroad without having to worry about constant discomfort from your allergies.

For those with asthma that can be triggered by low air quality, it may be worth checking pollution information and weather forecasts for your chosen destination, before travelling there. If you must travel to a highly polluted area, the weather forecast can provide valuable insight into the likelihood of an asthma attack. This is because cold weather with no sun can cause air pollutants to sit close to the ground. This creates a thick blanket of pollution, which you may need to avoid if pollution can trigger a reaction.

As well as researching where you will go, you should also research how you will travel. Some airlines are more accommodating than others when it comes to allergies. Information on an airline’s allergy policy is available online. You can also read about other people’s real experiences with each airline, in case their actions do not reflect their policies.

Accommodation is another important aspect of travel that can make or break the holiday experience of someone with allergies. Many hotels will offer allergy-friendly rooms or advertise themselves as being allergy friendly. It is useful to ask your potential hotel if they offer these rooms or if they can make the necessary adjustments to your room to fit your allergy needs. Sometimes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

If you are in a country that does not speak your language, it may be worth learning a few of the key phrases necessary to describe your allergies. This may ensure that others fully understand the risk to you. This will be particularly useful in restaurants if you have a food allergy.  You need to be able to understand the menu so that you know you are ordering food that is safe for you. It will also help to ensure that the staff understand what you are allergic to so they can make any adjustments necessary. It may also be nice for locals to experience tourists communicating in the local language. This can help you build a rapport with staff, who may then be more likely to go above and beyond to help you with your allergy needs.

Even something small like planning ahead can improve your experience of travelling with allergies. Of course, there are plenty of ways that you can prepare yourself to travel with allergies, but what if you could start the process to try and get rid of them all together? By getting tested for the allergens that most affect you, you can start looking at the appropriate treatments. If you’re concerned about travelling with allergies and would like to discuss treatment options. Book an appointment with one of our specialist consultants today.

What causes food allergies and intolerances?

The experience of a food intolerance can be uncomfortable. It can result in itching, swelling, rashes and other annoying symptoms. For those with more allergies, it can result in anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. So what causes our bodies to take such extreme action against seemingly harmless substances? This question is worth asking, but the answers to it are not completely understood yet.


We do know that allergic reactions occur when the immune system incorrectly perceives something as a threat to the body. This results in an overreaction to the substance, resulting in your immune system releasing antibodies. These antibodies trigger the release of protective chemicals. They are the cause of your unfortunate runny nose and watering eyes. Your immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work in unison to defend the body from harmful invaders. If the immune system were to break down, we would be severely susceptible to disease. Even mild infections like the common cold could kill us.


This defence system has evolved over thousands of years to be incredibly effective at protecting the human body. So how can something as simple as a nut or a glass of milk cause the whole system to turn on itself? Some scientists argue that the most common food allergens contain the same proteins. These are the proteins that cause allergic reactions. Nuts, seeds, shellfish, corn, milk, soy, eggs, and wheat are among the most common food allergies. They appear so different on the surface, yet they all share the same proteins. The proteins in question are more visible to the immune system than other proteins. For people with food allergies, the detection of these proteins triggers the release of Immunoglobulin antibodies.


These IgE antibodies are usually the first line of defence against parasites, but in this case, they are misidentifying the food as a threat. When Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is produced, it occupies receptors on mast cells that, in the presence of the allergens, release histamine. That triggers symptoms like swelling, rashes, itching, and anaphylactic shock within seconds or minutes. There is a range of evidence to suggest that these types of allergies may be hereditary. Although children may not be allergic to the same foods as their parents, research suggests that parents with IgE-mediated allergies are more likely to have children with IgE-mediated allergies.


With large allergic reactions to food, it may seem obvious what is causing the problem. However, more subtle reactions can allow a food allergy to go undiagnosed for some time and there may be some confusion over what is causing your symptoms. But, there are ways to see what may be causing the reaction. 

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from a food allergy, book an appointment with one of our consultants today.

Why Are Allergies On The Rise In The Uk?

In the UK, the number of people with allergies grows by 5% every year, and half of these people are children. Research from 2007 indicated a 500% increase in food allergies since 1990. Hay fever, asthma, and eczema have been rising for 3 decades and continue to do so. These are only two of the statistics that highlight the trend in increasing allergies in the UK. There is much more research to support this. But what we don’t know is what is causing this trend. There are many theories about this, but scientists are finding it hard to settle on just one. The most popular theories include the hygiene hypothesis, the mother’s diet during pregnancy, allergen exposure and atmospheric pollution. Each theory has its own unique points on why allergies may be increasing in the UK.


The hygiene hypothesis suggests that exposing a child to potentially harmful bacteria can aid immune system development. As a society, we focus on creating clean environments for our children. This creates a lack of exposure to dirt and bacteria and could impede immune system development. Research has shown that children have higher rates of hay fever, asthma, and other allergies when they live in very clean environments.


Other research suggests that the mother’s diet may influence a child’s likelihood of developing allergies. Researchers from Imperial College London recently found that when mothers took fish oil supplements during pregnancy, in combination with breastfeeding, their children were 30% less likely to be allergic to eggs and 22% less likely to develop eczema. This study focuses on very specific allergies. But, evidence exists to suggest linkages between prenatal diet and other allergies in children.


One study found that mothers who ate more tree nuts during pregnancy were less likely to have a child with a nut allergy. Yet, the research into the relationship between a mother’s diet and allergies is inconclusive. It can only suggest a relationship between the two factors, rather than causality. You should always talk to your GP before taking supplements and changing your diet during pregnancy.


Some suggest that the increased prevalence of allergies in the UK is a result of increased exposure to allergens. This contradicts the idea that increased exposure to allergens could reduce sensitivity. However, it supports the idea that increased atmospheric pollution could cause more asthma. Two-thirds of people in the UK report that poor air quality worsens their asthma. Also, research shows that children living in more polluted areas have a higher chance of developing asthma.


Despite each having research to support them, these ideas surrounding the causes of allergies in the UK are still theoretical. The evidence that does exist remains inconclusive. There could be some truth to them all but what the evidence does highlight, is a need for further research.


If you think you are suffering from an allergy and would like to get tested, you can book an appointment with us online or by phone or request an allergy test. For more allergy information check out some of our latest posts at

Allergies and intolerances: What’s the difference?


Have you ever eaten food out of sheer convenience knowing that after you will suffer? Even if you are unsure why your body reacts that way? It may not seem important at that moment, but chances are, you are either suffering from a food allergy or food intolerance. Once the symptoms subside, however, it’s worth finding out for the benefit of your long-term health which one it is.


What is the difference between the two?

Food allergies cause an immune system reaction that usually affects multiple organs, causing a range of symptoms that can often be life-threatening and trigger anaphylaxis shock.


Food intolerance symptoms are mostly limited to digestive problems, can be less severe and are often caused by the absence, or insufficient level of enzymes in the body. Those enzymes are required to digest foods and are pertinent to keeping a healthy and regular body.


An example is the enzyme lactase, which is used to break down and digest the sugar called lactose found in milk products. Insufficient lactase can lead to lactose intolerance, causing an upset stomach, bloating, gas, flatulence, diarrhoea, and vomiting.


Long and short-term health effects

If left unaddressed, food intolerances can lead to chronic health problems. Both food allergies and intolerances can affect your quality of life and influence gut health negatively. Good gut health is recognised as a critical factor in an optimised immune system, which, in turn, can avoid other significant health conditions.   


Testing testing

A useful test for food allergies is a skin prick test, which involves exposing the cells of the immune system to possible allergens and measuring the immune response. 


There are genetic blood tests that can help to predict the likelihood of lactose and gluten-related problems. Also, by monitoring your daily intake and introducing a process of elimination to your diet, we can get to the root of what you are intolerant to by slowly reintroducing foods.


Why do we keep doing it?

Worryingly, as a food intolerance is not immediately life-threatening, many of us keep eating food that we know threatens our wellbeing. Sometimes we are unaware that we are intolerant to certain foods and keep eating food that can cause bloating, indigestion, tiredness, migraines, headaches, persistent runny nose and coughing, inability to function or concentrate, depression and general irritability.


What can we do to stay healthy?

Nutritional measures can help. Here’s where the difference between a true allergy and intolerance becomes important. It might seem obvious but first and foremost avoid eating foods that you know you are allergic to! With some a vast amount of ‘free-from’ products available on the market, it is increasingly easier to replace your favourite treats.


If you are unsure whether or not a particular food is disagreeing with your body and you would like to investigate further, book an appointment with one of our consultants today.

Pet allergies: Am I allergic to cats?

Did you know, that in the UK, pets are the second most important cause of allergies? The biggest culprit is our feline friend; the housecat. In fact, the number of people who are allergic to cats is significantly higher than any other pet allergy.


This probably doesn’t come as much as a surprise to you. But a little-known fact is that the primary allergen actually isn’t in the cat’s fur. It is found in a protein known as Fel d 1(a uteroglobin-like protein.)


There are other characterised allergens in cats that people can be allergic to Fel d 2, serum albumin, Fel d 3, cystatin, a cysteine protease inhibitor, Fel d 4, a Lipocalin, Fel d 5, Fel d 6, Fel d 7.


Fel D 1 is found in their urine, saliva, and dander (dry skin). You’re more likely to see a higher concentration of this in unneutered male cats due to testosterone secretions.


Like velcro, Fel D 1 attaches itself to human’s clothes, and it is easily transferable. Because of this, it is possible to get this allergy from being in contact with a cat owner, or someone else who has recently been near cats. The allergen is so small that it can remain in the air for hours, and it can be easily breathed directly into the lungs.


Individuals suffering from allergies have developed sensitisation – state of an immune system that preserves an innocent protein (allergen) as a foreign body (parasite) – a potential threat and is trying to fight it with all its might. The symptoms you get are the side effects of your body attacking the allergen with the aim to prevent it harming your system.


The symptoms can appear only a few minutes after being in contact with the allergen. In some cases, it might take even hours to appear. Up to 30% of people who have allergic asthma can feel severe intensifications of their problems after contact with Fel D 1.


Usually, the symptoms are very evident after being in contact with a cat. These usually appear in the following forms:

  • Itchy, runny, or blocked nose.
  • Red, itchy eyes.
  • Sneezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Hives or a rash in the area of the face and neck when in contact with the saliva
  • Redness of the skin after feline contact or if you get a scratch.


It is easy to confuse an animal allergy with an allergic reaction to dust and so it is vital that before getting any treatment a consultant detects the exact allergen that is responsible for your symptoms. This can help not only to use treatment to reduce the symptoms but in many cases allows to conduct the treatment that can influence the cause of allergy – immunotherapy.


There are several types of tests that to determine whether you are allergic to cat’s dander. Book an appointment with one of our specialists today to arrange a suitable screening for the cause of your symptoms.


Thinking Of Buying A Reptile?


Over the last two decades, reptiles have become increasingly popular as house pets in the UK. Bearded dragons, snakes, lizards, are all cold-blooded amphibians that warm the hearts of many households.


Part of the reason so many people turn to reptiles as a pet is the desire for a house pet but not being able to hat a cat or a dog because of their allergenic fur.


Compared to cats and dogs, reptile pets typically have a diet of insects some of which ate hotbeds for aggressive airborne allergens.


When these are brought to the home, you have the risk of introducing a new form of domestic allergy to insects. Namely grasshoppers and locusts.


In one case, after getting a bearded dragon for his eighth birthday, one boy developed asthma and severe bronchial hypersensitivity within four months of getting his new pet.


After continual symptoms, his parents took him for an allergy test. An IgE immunoblot prick-to-prick test confirmed that he has a specific sensitisation to grasshoppers — his pets favourite meal. Four years of allergen avoidance proved useful, but after on single exposure, the same young adult saw a severe asthma attack.


Sadly, this isn’t the only case in which reptiles in the home trigger allergens. Where the reptile isn’t usually the trigger in the first instance, they can’t help what they eat and so the potent insect allergens they are associated with can cause an issue.


Read the full story here:


Thinking of buying a reptile for the family? While they make for fantastic pets, not many people realise the potential allergens that come with them. Before picking out a new snake, lizard, or dragon, it is a good idea to make sure you won’t start suffering from allergies further down the line. While getting a reptile in the home won’t guarantee the trigger of an  IgE allergy, it is better to be safe than sorry. Especially with young ones in the house. Before you introduce a new member to the family, why not take one of our home tests or book an appointment with one of our consultants first to test for any possible insect sensitisation.


Are You Becoming Intolerant Of Your Reactions To Gluten?

‘Triticum aestivum’ is increasingly becoming a worldwide menace. This pesky allergen aggravator is more commonly known as bread wheat. It is used in many foods such as bread, cakes, pasta, pizza, bulgur, couscous, and cereals. Many individuals suffer from specific immune responses as a result of ingesting gluten, that is present in wheat, barley and rye.

There are two types of reactions. The first occurs through Immunoglobulin E (IgE). The more serious of the two, IgE is a severe allergic response that comes in two forms. When digested it is shown as a food allergy, that can be pretty severe. Or when inhaling the particles, which is seen as a respiratory allergy, including allergic asthma. This is common in professional environments where employees are continuously around wheat flour. Bakers for example frequently have this issue. Food allergy IgE reactions commonly happen in children.

Non-IgE mediated gluten food reactions cause internal inflammation in oesophagus and stomach. While non-IgE reactions are highly unlikely to cause anaphylaxis, severe gastrointestinal symptoms can occur.

The number of people having symptoms as a result of contact with wheat is on the rise for both immunoglobulin E (IgE) and non-IgE mediated cases. Clinical assessment may include allergy tests for IgE mediated conditions and exclusion diet for Non-IgE wheat related cases.

There are many foods known to trigger allergies in both adults and children. The common allergens in childhood are:
Peanuts/tree nuts; and

The first step to determine the cause of the triggers is by using allergy testing. Once the allergen has been identified, your consultant can start to work on adjusting your diet.
After 6-12 months on a gluten-free diet, roughly 80% of patients lose their antibody response. From five years onwards this increases above 90%.

Are you concerned that you might have a food or gluten allergy? Book an appointment with one of our consultants today. One of our consultants will get started and take your first steps towards minimising your discomfort.

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Beware Of Placebo ‘Food Intolerance Tests’

The Irish Food Allergy Network has recently openly shared Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) latest review. It covers the types of food intolerance tests readily available on the market. If you are not familiar, the HPRA is the Irish competent authority in charge of the regulation of medical devices. These include the in vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices that are used as part of the food intolerance testing process. While they are not responsible for regulating allergy or intolerance advice, they are in charge monitoring the products on the market. In this case, it is their advice to the public to not rely on them; an opinion that is backed up by the IFAN. While this may be the case in Ireland, the situation with the products in the UK are the same story.


To be clear, there is a distinct difference between food intolerance and food allergies. A ‘food intolerance’ refers to the condition where the underlying medical causes are undetermined, yet the patient clearly demonstrates unpleasant symptoms as a result of eating particular foods. These symptoms may typically be severe indigestion, uncomfortable bloating, or excessive flatulence. In contrast to a food allergy which has severe effects. An allergic reaction usually comes in the form of rapid swelling of the face and troubles catching one’s breath. In bad cases, anaphylaxis will occur, and immediate medical care is required.


It only takes a small particle of the offending food to trigger a food allergy. These symptoms can lend themselves to be life-threatening. Unlike an intolerance which is unpleasant but manageable.


We can reflect a lot on the reports from across the water when it comes to intolerance and food testing. For one thing, as there is little known about the root cause of food intolerance, any test on the market claiming to indicate the existence of an intolerance to food has no clinical validity. Making it both pointless and a waste of money. The test work by examining a blood marker known as ‘immunoglobulin G’ (IgG). For the most part, all these IgG tests might show is that you had an increase of proteins recently – which is standard in everyday eating – which has zero relevance to your intolerance to any foods.


Taking the advice of tests without a medical professional with the right credentials and tests put through an accredited laboratory can be dangerous. It is not worth the risk when it comes to your health. It could turn out to be that the symptoms you face are the result of an underlying issue that you have missed because you have wrongfully diagnosed yourself as having a food allergy.


To accurately review your intolerance and perform a food allergy test your medical history and symptoms need to be adequately analysed by allergy immunology and gastroenterology consultants.

An IgG and IgA test is only useful in specialist professionals’ hands when testing for coeliac disease. Otherwise, a process that requires a proper food and symptoms diary is necessary.


When done in the right way, food allergy and intolerance tests are incredibly useful. Mainly because they can help you better understand how to eat  for your body. With our intolerance tests, our expert clinicians will provide and explain your results in plain English and help you plan how to eat accordingly. It is vital you get a balanced and healthy nutritious diet and so it is better to have the appropriate dietary advice from registered dietitians instead of diagnosing yourself off of bad information from the wrong people.


If you would like help or advice on food intolerances and allergies, we’d love to help you. Book an appointment with one of our consultants today. They can arrange the appropriate monitoring along with your symptoms.


Full article for citation:

Allergic Rhinitis Sex Shift

It is well documented that certain medical conditions affect men and women differently, sometimes occurring more in one than the other depending on the issue. This is obvious in certain circumstances; such as breast cancer primarily affecting women even though there is a growing awareness of it in men too. As a whole, medical afflictions of all natures can have differing effects on both men and women. This includes asthma, allergic reactions, and potentially allergic rhinitis too.


Interestingly, not only can this manifest in different ways between men and women, but something curious happens as children suffering from asthmas, allergies, and allergic rhinitis develop through puberty and into adulthood. A recent 2017 study by M. Fröhlich et al. investigated whether there was a sex-shift in the prevalence of the conditions between boys and girls maturing into adulthood. Previous studies have shown that allergic rhinitis and asthma affects more boys than girls in childhood, but this exhibited a marked switch into adulthood, as the conditions became more apparent in females.


The conclusive study examined over 93,400 participants over ten different studies in a fourteen-year period to ascertain how predominant this sex-shift was. What was interesting was that in children who suffered from both allergic rhinitis and asthma, males outnumbered females by a ratio of 1.65, or for every three girls who suffered both together, there were effectively five boys with the same dual condition. However, as the children grew into adolescence, this practically reversed, with the male-female ratio for those between 11-17 years of age is 0.6, or, more plainly, for every three males, there were five females with both allergic rhinitis and asthma. As the participants then came to be adults, this then exhibited near-parity, at a ratio of 1.03, with males showing an ever so slight bias towards both conditions.


What’s interesting here is the swing back and forth between the two as children become adolescents and then back again in adulthood. Whilst the researchers do admit that this is still a relatively nascent field, and further research must be done to corroborate and extend upon their work, these initial findings do make intriguing reading.


So what does this all mean? Well, in one aspect, it shows the influential role puberty plays in the development of individuals’ immune systems, and how, particularly in girls, signs of allergic rhinitis and asthmas at an early age may well emphasise an increased likelihood for a greater development of the conditions into adolescence. For boys, the opposite appears to be true, but nevertheless, those who suffer from the conditions at a young age are likely to carry that through into adulthood, though the statistics do indicate that many will also simply ‘grow out’ of it.


Whatever the case, this new evidence adds more weight to the growing field of research in this area, and can hopefully continue to be developed as we better understand one of the world’s most common afflictions.
Read the full article here for citation:

Are You Going The Right Weigh About Improving Your Child’s Asthma?

Asthma is single-handedly the leading contributor to chronic illness in infants. Most symptoms begin to show around age five. With roughly one in ten minors affected – and these numbers steadily increasing – it is vital that we look at the contributing factors to minimise your child’s symptoms. There is any number of possibilities as to why more and more youngsters are developing asthma.


Many experts speculate that as children are becoming technology-obsessed and are spending an increasing amount of time indoors, they have more exposure to allergens around the house such as dust, air pollution, and secondhand smoke.


There is another factor to consider that is often severely overlooked: a child’s weight. Obesity and asthma are directly linked as being overweight increases sensitivity to indoor pollutants and has much more on an impact on children that have been hospitalised with acute asthma exacerbation over children in the same situation with a smaller body type.


A recent study was conducted in Japan with almost 39,000 three to eight-year-olds diagnosed with asthma comparing a months worth of readmission by analysing three different categories: the need for intensive care, the mean total cost of hospitalisation, and the length of stay in the hospital.


To make a fair assessment, the patients that were identified were split into four groups based on their weight and were divided into groups of underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. These were sorted by weight, height, and body mass index compared to their age, using the World Health Organisation standards as a guideline.


Of the results, it was inherently apparent that the obese group showed significantly higher 30-day readmission results and a much longer length of stay than those children in the normal weight group. These findings clearly demonstrated that paediatric obesity is a risk factor for repeated admissions caused by asthma in children, and should be a matter taken seriously indicating the importance for the prevention of pediatric obesity.


By being mindful of the weight category that your child falls into, you can start to take take the necessary steps towards improving your child’s respiratory health and also minimise their susceptibility to indoor pollutants.


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To find out more, speak to our allergy and chest medicine consultants about allergic and non-allergic asthma and its symptoms or any other advice relating to allergies. You can book an appointment on our website

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