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Identifying & preventing allergies in infants

recognising and preventing allergies in infants

Identifying & preventing allergies in infants

The BSACI Paediatric Allergy Group (PAG) and the Food Allergy Specialist Group (FASG) of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) have developed guidance to identify allergies in higher risk infants and advice in early prevention of allergies. To find out more about allergies, intolerances, symptoms, and testing, read our blog here. To find out more about prevention according to the new guidelines, keep reading.


The BSACI has outlined a summary for parents to minimise the risk of allergies. The guide advises that prevention start from 6 months of age onwards.

6 months

  • Exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months of life.

Studies show that infants not breastfed were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalised compared to those who exclusively breastfed for four months or more.

  • From around 6 months of age (but not before 4 months), introduce complementary foods (solids) – including foods known to cause food allergies – alongside continued breastfeeding
  • Excluding egg and peanut from your baby’s diet is likely to increase the risk of food allergy.

Studies show that despite the relatively early introduction of solid foods, consumption of

peanut and hen’s egg during infancy is not common practice with 73% of infants consuming less than one or no eggs per week; with 98% of infants consuming less than or no nuts.

Complementary foods should be pureed and offered in small amounts of vegetables, fruit, starchy foods, protein, and pasteurised dairy. Do not add salt or sugar.

Signs your baby is ready for solid foods include:

  • Being able to sit relatively unaided in a high chair, with their head steady.
  • Trying to reach out to grab food and put in their mouth.
  • Loss of the “tongue-thrust” reflex – babies who aren’t ready push the food back out with their tongue, so they get more around their face than they do in their mouths.

High risk

Babies who suffer from eczema are likely to be at a higher risk of allergies*, the BSACI advise that you should introduce egg and/or peanut earlier on in their diet (4 months of age), followed by other foods know to cause food allergies.

The benefits of allergy testing in higher risk babies before introducing egg or peanut needs to be balanced against the risk this could cause a delay (due to lack of available testing) and increase the risk of food allergy.

*Some babies will already have food allergies, especially those with severe eczema. The risk of a severe reaction (anaphylaxis) is low (1-2 per 1000 in these babies). Speak to your healthcare professional before introducing egg and peanut if your baby has severe eczema.

Guide to egg and peanut

  • Egg – choose British lion-stamped eggs. Aim to give your child one egg over the course of the week.
  • Peanut – never give your baby whole nuts – make sure you chop them finely. The guide advises that you use smooth peanut butter, “puffed peanut” snacks or grind whole peanuts to a fine powder. Mix with pureed fruits/vegetables, yoghurt, porridge, baby cereals etc.

These guidelines are for infants who’s allergies have not yet been diagnosed. If you think your little one might have an allergy and would like further testing, get in touch today to book an appointment. To find out more about the BSACI, click here.

Is sleeping with a fan on bad for your health?

For those with asthma, a fan can cause problems

Is sleeping with a fan on bad for your health?

While we may love the summer heat, we also hate it; nobody likes getting into bed at the end of a long day only to feel sweaty hence the fans we can set up next to our bed. A cool breeze all night? Yes, please! Unfortunately, it’s not all good news; if you struggle with dust allergies, hay fever or asthma, then you may want to ditch the fan.


No matter how clean and tidy you keep your room, there is always sneaky dust particles or pollen insistent on sticking around. This dust and pollen can attach itself to the fan blades which will circulate the air once switched on. So when you’re sleeping, those nasties are being blown right at your face. You might be okay, but if you find that your eyes are itchy or if you experience any other symptoms, you should probably keep the fan switched off. If you can’t bear the heat, try cleaning the fan blades before you go to sleep.

Dry skin

If you have dry skin, a fan can cause it to worsen as the fan eliminates moisture due to the prolonged cool air. Lotions can help to keep your skin as moisturised as possible, but if you find that it isn’t helping, keep fan usage minimal.


The cold air can dry out your nasal passages which can affect your sinuses and cause excess mucus which is likely to cause a stuffy nose and headaches.


It isn’t dangerous to sleep with a fan on, in fact, it can be beneficial in an infant’s room, according to some studies, as reducing the temperature in their environment can minimise the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  

If you think that you or your child is suffering from dust allergies or hay fever, get in touch with us today or complete our online allergy test to take the first steps to prevent irritation and discomfort.

Food allergies and intolerance in infants

food allergies and intolerance in infants

Food allergies and intolerances in infants

Food allergies are not always easy to spot, but it isn’t impossible.


Intolerance or allergy?

The first step to take is to identify whether your child is suffering from an intolerance or allergy. Physical reactions such as bloating to specific foods aren’t uncommon and are likely to be considered an intolerance rather than an allergy. Both can have similar symptoms which is why they are often confused.

Allergies are characterised by being life-threatening and occur when the body’s immune system perceives a specific food as threatening to lead to an allergic reaction. Whereas intolerances are less severe and often will only cause issues such as stomach pains or nausea; this is usually a result of the body not being able to digest certain foods or the digestive system reacting to the food and becoming irritated as a result.


Dietary alternatives

If your child is intolerant, then they may be able to consume minimal amounts of the food they are sensitive to without too much discomfort. You can swap out foods for alternatives (e.g. dairy milk for oat milk), ask your doctor for help in aiding your digestion, as well as seek medical help for any underlying health issues that are causing the sensitivity.


Early intervention

The BSACI’s Paediatric Allergy Group (PAG) and the Food Allergy Specialist Group (FASG) of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) have developed guidance to identify allergies in higher risk infants and advice in early prevention of allergies.

They suggest that a variety of vegetables, fruit, starchy foods, protein, as well as pasteurised dairy be introduced into your child’s diet as early as six months old. Including foods commonly associated with allergies such as egg and peanuts.

The BSACI’s suggest that babies who suffer from eczema are at a higher risk of food allergies.



The guide states that there are two categories to be aware of:

Immediate – typically happens within 30 minutes of consuming the food

Delayed – occurs hours after the dietary trigger


Immediate symptoms include:

Swollen lips, face or eyes

Itchy skin rash

Abdominal pain



Rarer symptoms include:


Swollen tongues, persistent cough

Difficulty in breathing or heavy breathing



Delayed symptoms include:

Persistent abdominal pain, vomiting

Food refusal or aversion

Frequent stools, constipation

Skin redding or itch over the body


If your child suffers from eczema, an allergy can make the eczema flare up and worsen.



Intolerances can be diagnosed by the exclusion of products one by one, with further reintroduction in a blinded manner, confirming the absence and return of the symptoms.

Our clinic can test for allergies in children. We can give dietary advice after doing one or more of the following tests:

  • Skin prick test with commercially available food extracts
  • Prick to prick test with fresh or cooked food
  • Challenge test with food in a safe hospital environment
  • Blood test Specific IgE to food
  • Biochip – molecular method of Specific IgE detection Immunocap ISAC

If you find that your child is experiencing any of the symptoms listed in this blog, get in touch with us today on book an appointment with one of our consultants to take the first steps to preventing their discomfort.

Remote testing – Allergy testing from the comfort of your own home

allergy testing from the comfort of your own home

Remote testing – Allergy testing from the comfort of your own home

When something is wrong with your body, finding out what it is can be stressful. Some people have iatrophobia, a legitimate fear of doctors. Some people are frightened of what they might find out if they visit the doctor. But something that seems disproportionately true to British culture is that we don’t want to be a bother.

However, what may seem like a trivial matter now, can develop into something dangerous if left without medical intervention. The fact remains that medical professionals could save more than 11,500 lives every year if people were more willing to seek help when they first experienced symptoms of an illness.

When it comes to allergies, finding out what you are allergic to is essential to keep you safe. But, testing may also reveal whether the symptoms you are experiencing are a result of an allergy, or whether they point to another illness. This could save your life. To make these test accessible to as many people as possible, you can now apply for remote allergy testing.

What is remote testing?

Remote testing refers to an allergy test which you carry out in the comfort of your home. The process is fast, effective, and practical, and you don’t have to leave the house. This is an excellent option for those who may live quite far from a reputable allergy centre.

You collect a blood sample, using the detailed instructions provided, and send it to the lab for testing. These allergy tests can identify 112 different allergies, including food allergies, which are a common concern for those experiencing symptoms of a food allergy or intolerance.

How does it work?

The first step is requesting an allergy test from us. Once you pay for your test, it takes about 10 minutes to complete a symptoms questionnaire online. The inquiry aims to find out what symptoms you are experiencing. That way our consultants have all the information needed to create accurate judgements.

Your allergy testing kit is sent to your house using the information you provide to us online. You will receive an email which contains detailed instructions on how to use the testing kit, how to collect the small blood sample required, and how to get your sample back to us. You mail it back to us using a prepaid envelope, and our lab technicians take it from there.

What are your options?

Remote testing is a safe, straightforward way to take the first steps towards bettering your health. Gaining control over your allergies means you’ll be able to live your life stress-free because you’ll know what allergens to avoid and you learn the best ways to do so. It also allows you to start effective treatments to reduce or rid you of your symptoms and get your life back.

If you are uncomfortable taking a blood sample yourself, you can still book an appointment to have an allergy test in person. Or you can fill out the symptoms questionnaire online. Then you take your remote testing kit to one of our qualified nurses in specified locations who will take the sample for you. Then you post your sample to the lab as usual. These two options are the only ones available for children who must have their blood sample taken by a medical professional. All that is left to do after this is wait for us to contact you with your results in approximately one week.

Remote testing helps save lives. Even if you are only experiencing mild symptoms, you still need an allergy test to ensure you live a safe, stress-free life, and check your symptoms aren’t due to another illness. To request a remote allergy test with the London Allergy and Immunology Centre, click here. Or, book an appointment with one of our consultants.


Remote testing – Allergy testing from the comfort of your own home

Do vaccinations cause allergies?

travel vaccinations

Do vaccinations cause allergies?

It’s that time of year again. The children have almost finished school and summer is in full swing. With airfares cheaper than ever, you could travel to places far more exotic than the UK. But, different countries, continents, cities, and ways of life, all have different risks. For example, there are various diseases that you find across the globe. Of course, that shouldn’t put you off going on the trip of a lifetime. There are travel vaccinations that can prevent you from picking up anything nasty. They will allow you to enjoy your holiday worry-free.

What happens when people don’t get vaccinated?

The number of people who are questioning whether there is a relationship between getting vaccinations and developing allergies is growing. Even in the UK, this perceived danger surrounding vaccinations is leading many parents to avoid vaccinating their children.

The immune system has developed to protect us from nasty diseases, but it has its limits. The reluctance to use vaccinations has led to a failure in the herd immunity phenomenon. Outbreaks of measles and other diseases are occurring, and these can be fatal. Taking a risk like avoiding vaccination while travelling abroad can be even more dangerous. Diseases much more severe than measles lurk across the world. So, getting your travel vaccinations is a safe choice.

Will my travel vaccinations cause allergies?

There is currently no reliable evidence to suggest that vaccinations lead to allergy development. Some studies indicate that there is a link between vaccinations and allergy development in children. However, there are problems with these studies. Firstly, a link does not mean causality. Just because two things are associated does not mean one causes the other. There could be other variables that come into play without the researcher’s knowledge. Secondly, the studies that suggest a relationship between allergies and asthma are often based on anecdotal research, observation, and don’t have representative sample sizes. When studies incorporate these factors into their design, there is no evidence for a relationship between vaccinations and allergies.

There is much more research into the relationship between vaccines and allergies, spanning decades, but scientists have found no causal link. The research shows a mixture of evidence, but ultimately, there is no reliable research to suggest vaccines cause allergies.

Should I get travel vaccinations?

In the UK, people can make up their own minds about whether they want to be vaccinated. Keep in mind that there’s no evidence to support a link between vaccinations and allergies. But, there is extensive research to prove vaccines prevent the contraction of many fatal diseases. Getting travel vaccinations can protect you from a variety of dangerous pathogens and diseases found overseas. These include typhoid, polio, measles mumps and rubella, yellow fever, multiple types of meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, and others that can be life-changing, or even fatal. Some countries take disease spreading so seriously that without the corresponding vaccination, they won’t grant you entry.

If you have developed an allergy, and aren’t quite sure of the cause, book an appointment with the London Allergy and Immunology Centre today. You can develop an allergy at any time, and we are the best people to help you discover what triggers your symptoms and how best to treat them.

Conquering your summer allergy

summer allergy

Conquering your summer allergy

With summer upon us, we will be filling our streets and green spaces with people enjoying the sun in all its glory. But, if you suffer from a summer allergy, you know that this isn’t always the case.

With millions of people suffering from hayfever throughout the UK, which has been increasing recently due to many people developing it in middle age, summer isn’t always the best time for everyone.

But there are a few things you can do to help fight those runny noses, sneezes and puffy eyes.

Get tested

If you find yourself dealing with constant sneezing, itchy or puffy eyes during the summer, then it is highly likely that you have an allergy. If you haven’t already been tested to find out what’s causing it, this is the first step on your way to a slightly better summer.

Knowing what the principal culprits are could seriously help you avoid overexposure to them. The most common summer allergens include:

  • Weeds – Ragweed, cockleweed, Pigweed, Russian Thistle, Sagebrush, and Tumbleweed.
  • Mould – Mucur Racemosus, Cladosporium Herbarum, Alterniaria Tenuis.
  • Grasses – Bermuda, blue grasses, Fescue, Bahia grass, Timothy, Johnson and Rye.

Filter indoor air

The summer can be unbearable sometimes, especially in houses made of solid brick without air conditioning. But that being said, ensuring your indoor air is filtered will help you when it comes to your allergies.

You can do this by keeping windows and doors closed, and although it may be warm, fans are always a handy device to have around.

Know when to go out

Some days will be better for you than others, so ensuring you keep an eye on the daily pollen count will be highly beneficial to you.

If you know what allergens can trigger your symptoms, this will also be extremely helpful, which is why it’s always important to find out exactly what’s to blame, as different months have higher levels of different allergens, for example:

  • June – the key month for grass pollen.
  • July – beginning of mould spore season.
  • August – this is when ragweed begins to emerge.

Dry clothes indoors

The sun may be shining, and the weather may be hot. You’ll probably be making the most of it by drying your washing in the sun.

You’ll probably find you have a lot more washing during the summer too. But, if you suffer from summer allergies dry them inside. You should be able to prevent airborne allergens from getting trapped in the fibres by doing this – meaning all that hard work washing them away would have been wasted.

Instead, opt for clothes dryers you can pop up inside.

An allergen-free bedroom

Keeping your bedroom free of summer allergens could drastically help you reduce your symptoms. You can do this by changing your bedding regularly and by ensuring that clothes hampers are moved to another room; you could even change out of clothes in other rooms to avoid your room being full of pollen.

If you’ve been suffering from sneezing, puffy eyes or something similar and you don’t know the cause, maybe it’s time to book an appointment with a specialist consultant. At London Allergy and Immunology Centre, we can test for over 100 different allergies at once to diagnose your symptoms and find the most effective treatments. Book an appointment here to take the first steps to living a more comfortable, snot-free summer.

Eczema in the sun

eczema and sun

Eczema in the sun

Eczema in the winter is unpleasant; the cold weather dries the skin out quickly. However, dealing with eczema prone skin in the summer isn’t any easier.  Eczema is an awful condition to deal with; it’s itchy, it stings and burns, and it can even interrupt day to day activities including sleep.

If you find yourself having flare-ups during the heatwave, then follow these tips to keep your eczema from getting worse.

Keep it natural

Wear natural fabrics – we recommend wearing soft, airy fabrics such as cotton or linen.

The same goes for bedding – swap manmade fabrics for 100% cotton or linen.


  • Be sure to use no fragrance washing powders and fabric softeners.

Don’t sweat it

Staying sweat free isn’t easy but if you do start to perspire and you find that it is irritating your skin, try taking a cold (or lukewarm) shower and changing into airy clothes – and be sure to moisturise after. If you’re stuck in the office – don’t be afraid to go to the bathroom and rinse your arms and face in the sink.

Deodorant is essential during the hot weather, however, using a natural deodorant may help to lessen the risk of irritating the skin especially as eczema thrives in the crevices such as the underarms.


  • Pack cloths/flannels into your bag to wipe away sweat throughout the day.

Cover up

Everyone needs to be careful when out in the sun, however, eczema sufferers need to take extra caution. Try not to stay out in the sun for too long, mainly if your eczema areas are not covered up.


  • Make sure you wear sun lotion – sunburn won’t help your eczema. Lotions, as well as bug repellents, should be non-allergenic and free from any ingredients that trigger flare-ups.
  • If you need to go outdoors, avoid going out in peak hours (10:00-15:00).

Stay hydrated

One of the most important things to do during the summer is to stay hydrated – water is essential! Sweating causes you to lose electrolytes such as zinc and vitamin D – leading to fatigue which can increase anxiety – and therefore flare-ups.


  • If you cannot commit to drinking plain water – try adding in some fruit for a natural flavour alternative.

Fun in the sun

Although some sufferers may find that the salty sea water helps to soothe their body and mind (which is helpful to avoid anxiety and flare-ups), we wouldn’t advise chlorine filled swimming pools. The harsh chemical, even in a small quantity might prompt your eczema to become more aggressive.


  • If you do decide to swim in the ocean, remember to wear sun lotion and apply body lotion/gel after to hydrate your skin.

Flower power

Unfortunately, eczema belongs to the allergy family which means that many individuals who have eczema, may also suffer with hayfever – however, an aloe vera plant is a natural, low pollen plant to keep your skin from feeling hot. Aloe vera has become well-known to cool your skin and sometimes even treat eczema. Aloe plants are also known to clean the air of pollutants.

Note: Make sure your body doesn’t react negatively to aloe before using it excessively.  


  • You can get aloe as a plant or in health and beauty stores.

We understand that eczema isn’t easy to manage and that there isn’t one easy way to deal with it, however, remember to keep things natural, and not to overexpose your skin to harsh chemicals, and to avoid prolonged time in water.

If you find that you’re experiencing some of these symptoms but aren’t convinced that it is eczema, perhaps you’re facing another allergy that you’re not aware of? Don’t suffer in silence. Book an allergy test with one of our consultants today to take the first steps towards living an allergy-free life.

Eczema in the sun

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Summer bug allergies

Summer is here, and so are the bugs that come with it. Are you unknowingly suffering from allergies?

Summer bug allergies.

There are no two ways about it, summer is here. The glorious back to back days of pure sunshine we’ve been enjoying has allowed us to ditch our warm jumpers for skimpy, floaty summer wear. Unfortunately, your poor skin is left exposed as a treat for an array of creepy crawlies to bite and snack on; leaving you prone to summer bug allergies. Many will only leave you with a nasty bite or bump but, for the unlucky few a small bump isn’t the only repercussion. Knowing the cause of your reaction can be the key to ensuring your summer isn’t ruined.

Summer is here, and so are the bugs that come with it. Are you unknowingly suffering from allergies?


It’s likely that you’ve had a mosquito bite at some point in your life. When it comes to summer bug allergies, mosquito bites are of the most common. The obvious telltale sign of a bite is a red hard bump, with a small amount of swelling followed by an itchy feeling. While feeding on your blood a mosquito inserts saliva into your skin which most humans are allergic to. This then causes our immune system to jump into action causing the bump and itch. Albeit, for some people with severe allergies, the symptoms can be more consequential.


Those who are allergic to mosquito bites may experience symptoms such as lesions or even an anaphylaxis reaction, the latter being rare.

Summer is here, and so are the bugs that come with it. Are you unknowingly suffering from allergies?

Bees and wasps.

During the summer months, bugs within the Hymenopterans order are extremely popular. The order includes yellow hornets and bees. A majority of these bugs are social and rarely attack people, attacking only when they feel threatened. Trying to avoid disturbing them could be a useful tactic in not getting stung by one. However, if you do unfortunately get stung you may go on to find out that you are allergic and not only left with a small bump.


Around only 3% of the nation’s population are allergic to bee venom with just a few of these having a severe anaphylaxis reaction. The symptoms of an allergy to a bee or wasp sting can vary and include:

  • Swelling around the eyes, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Itching.
  • Dizziness.

Summer is here, and so are the bugs that come with it. Are you unknowingly suffering from allergies?

Dust Mites

They might not come to mind when thinking of summer bug allergies but actually dust mite reactions are rife in the summer months. Typically due to the humid conditions giving them the perfect environment to thrive. Despite being microscopic bugs, these creatures can create waste amounting to over 200 times their own weight. With thousands of these doing so it can mount up quickly. Humans often breathe their waste in, and it is usually a completely harmless substance to most of us. However, others suffer various reactions to it. Recognisable dust mite allergy symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Runny or itchy nose.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Sinus pressure (may cause facial pain.)
  • Itchy, watery, or red eyes.
  • Scratchy throat or coughing.


Dust mites are often found in mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture. They are too small to be seen by the naked eye. So it may not be the easiest of jobs to avoid them. Discovering dust mites are the specific cause of your allergy can be the first step in reducing or preventing your future symptoms.


At London Allergy and Immunology Centre, we offer a wide range of modern treatments to help you deal with your allergies. To discover the cause of your symptoms and take the first steps towards alleviating your allergies, book an appointment with one of our consultants today.


Read more about house dust mite allergy

How Climate Change Could Make Your Summer Allergies Worse


How Climate Change Could Make Your Summer Allergies Worse

The evidence for anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change is undeniable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their most recent report on climate change, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, in 2014. The IPCC states that if we don’t take immediate action, we run the risk of doing irreversible damage to the world. Climate change has already started taking its toll on the health and well-being of the poorest people first. But, when it comes to the impacts of climate change on health, the implications it has for allergies is rarely discussed. This is unsurprising because the connection may not be immediately apparent. But, it is there nevertheless, particularly for summer allergies.

What summer allergies could be affected by climate change?

When referring to summer allergies, the first one people think about is often hay fever. Hay fever becomes a massive problem for up to 30% of adults and 40% of children in the UK, especially during the summer. But, other summer allergies exist. People allergic to bee, wasp, and other insect stings need to be particularly vigilant when the weather gets warmer. Also, seasonal produce available in the summer can cause a variety of allergy symptoms in people with oral allergy syndrome.

What is climate change?

The main causes of anthropogenic climate change are the greenhouse gases that humans release into the atmosphere. These include carbon dioxide as a result of burning fossil fuels and high levels of deforestation, methane, which is particularly problematic due to the meat industry, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons, to name a few. These act as a blanket of insulation around the earth allowing heat from the sun to come in, which then has a difficult time escaping. This is causing the average temperature of the planet to increase and is, therefore, upsetting the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystems, ultimately causing chaos and changing climates.

What has this got to do with your allergies?

As this climate change occurs, many countries are beginning to experience changing weather patterns. This is terrible news for people with summer allergies. Summers are starting earlier, becoming hotter, and becoming more unpredictable or more prolonged. This means the insects causing your allergies are coming out sooner as the weather regulates their behaviour. The flowers that emit the allergenic pollen that causes you so many uncomfortable symptoms are blooming earlier. As a result, people will be hit by the effects of hay-fever earlier and for more extended periods of time.

As climates heat up, species of plants and insects, that once found Europe inhabitable, will start to make their way onto the continent from warmer areas as they can now survive there. This brings the potential for a whole host of new allergens to start affecting allergy prone people across the world. These factors ultimately mean that increasing temperatures, and changes in seasonal weather patterns, will lead to people with summer allergies suffering earlier, and longer than ever before. Scientists have already started to document the effects of this in some cases. Plants in the UK are blooming earlier now than in the last 250 years.

Protecting ourselves from the effects of global warming starts with reducing your carbon footprint. But, this won’t happen overnight. All the while your summer allergies are still affecting you. London Allergy and Immunology Centre will provide you with the best treatments available. Your allergies will no longer get in the way of your life. Book an appointment with us today by calling 02031433449 or visit our website. ‎

Beware The Giant Hogweed This Summer!

giant hogweed

Beware the giant hogweed this summer!

What may be self-diagnosed as an acute allergic reaction could be a result of the harmless looking, yet dangerous giant hogweed plant. For people who come into contact with it, this plant can cause serious health problems. Unfortunately, the hot summer months are only likely to allow this weed to thrive in the UK.

As the summer firmly sets in, experts warn, do not touch this plant. More and more reports are reaching the news of unsuspecting individuals, particularly children, coming into contact with giant hogweed and experiencing a variety of painful allergy-like symptoms. When you are out enjoying nature this summer, you should be aware of what giant hogweed is, and the problems it causes. You don’t want to mistake them for an allergic reaction and seek the wrong medical treatment.

How to spot giant hogweed

The tricky thing with giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is that it can easily be mistaken for common hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), elderflower (Sambucus nigra), and wild carrot (Daucus carota). Despite this, there are ways to tell it apart. Giant hogweed is much larger than these native plants. It can grow up to 6 metres tall and sometimes spans around one metre. The flower heads often reach 60cm, and giant hogweed is distinct due to its purple-hued stem, spotted leaf stalks, and thin spines. If you see a plant that looks like this, avoid it.

Giant hogweed usually grows along riverbanks, verges, and footpaths. It has been spotted in parks and cemeteries in the UK. But, originally, giant hogweed comes from central Asia. It’s classed as an invasive species, as it is non-native and can cause harm to other species and human health. It was brought here as a domesticated plant, but now it has escaped into the wild, it is causing menacing symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms resulting from contact with the sap of giant hogweed may appear very similar to an allergic reaction. The sap is phototoxic and can cause photodermatitis. This means skin becomes sensitive to sunlight, and exposure to the sun causes blisters and scarring. This scarring in extreme cases can last years. All it takes for the sap to make its mark is a simple touch or brush past the plant. The sap also causes severe burns and skin inflammation in less than 24 hours.

The relatively fast development of these symptoms may be what leads people to mistake them for an allergic reaction, especially if they are not aware of any contact with the damaging sap. In some of the worst cases, when sap comes into contact with the eyes, it can cause blindness. Blisters and rashes can become infected leading to more serious health issues. And, it is possible to have a genuine allergic reaction to giant hogweed.

If you are sure the symptoms you are experiencing are not due to giant hogweed, but you are still unsure of the cause, it is time to book an appointment with a specialist consultant. At London Allergy and Immunology centre, we can test for over 100 different allergies at once to diagnose your symptoms and find the most effective treatments. Call us today on 02031433449.

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