Allergy Testing - Book an appointment online Allergy Testing Survey

What’s in your washing detergents and why it matters

What's in your washing detergent

What’s in your washing detergents and why it matters

Washing detergents and fabric softeners smell fantastic, but they don’t always feel it. For people with allergies or skin problems like eczema, using washing products with minimal chemicals in can make all the difference.

Similar to cosmetics, the fragrances and added scents can cause the skin to have an adverse reaction and can leave you having a bad night’s sleep if your bedding has been washed using certain detergents or powders.

It can be a challenge avoiding added chemicals as supermarket shelves are packed full of them. From lavender to a summer’s day to berries, there’s a different scent available for every wash. However, swapping out triggering products for something more natural is critical if you don’t want to break out into rashes, irritate your skin conditions, or scratch all day.

Ingredients list

Not everybody knows their triggers. You might know vaguely that harsh chemicals or fragrances don’t mix well with your skin. Here are the ingredients that are commonly found in washing products that you should steer clear of:

  • Fragrances
  • Dyes
  • Emulsifiers
  • Solvents
  • Parabens


If you have sensitive skin, you’ll already be wary about everyday products and that avoiding them is the key to not breaking out into rashes, bumps, and inflamed skin. But you may not have thought about other chemicals like parabens. You might have noticed that more and more shampoos on the market are paraben-free. But what are they and why should you ditch detergents that contain them?

Since the 1950s, parabens have been used as a preservative in cosmetics and toiletries to keep away bacteria and allow products to last longer. They have become controversial in recent years due to studies showing how they affect the skin. Although ‘normal’ skin isn’t usually affected by the synthetic preservative, ‘problem’ skin can cause it to flare up.

Not every product will clearly list that they contain parabens as they can go by other names, including:

  • Methylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Propylparaben


If you think you have an allergy or skin condition related to these chemicals, these are the signs to look out for:

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Bumps
  • Triggering of contact dermatitis or eczema

Contact or allergic?

It’s essential to find out whether you have contact dermatitis or allergic dermatitis. Both cause the skin to itch, dry out, and turn red, but they are also completely different. Contact dermatitis is usually more widespread and, unlike allergic dermatitis, doesn’t involve the immune system so isn’t an allergy. As its name suggests, contact dermatitis occurs due to exposure to irritants. However, allergic dermatitis is more localised and can cause the skin to blister and swell.

To avoid irritation, you should ditch the chemical-filled washing products and opt for products that are more natural. When you don’t know what your triggers are, we highly recommend you test for a range of allergens. If you’re struggling with skin conditions like eczema, find out more about what you can do to manage it.

If your skin is inflamed, itchy, and sore, you might have allergies you don’t even know about. Why not request an allergy test today or speak to our experts, so that you can live irritant-free.

Eating out with allergies – are you safe?

Eating out with allergies

Eating out with allergies – are you safe?

Everyone loves going to a restaurant to celebrate a birthday, a promotion, or a Wednesday. There are countless options covering cuisines from around the world. It’s a veritable treat for the senses.

For those without allergies, it’s difficult to imagine what it must be like to always read ingredient lists or request dietary menus. It’s hard work, and unfortunately, even if you take these preventive measures, it won’t always help.

What’s the danger?

This is a topic you may well have read about in the national news. A teenage girl died after eating an ‘artisan’ baguette from Pret A Manger. Even though she took careful consideration to check the label, it didn’t say that it contained sesame seeds.

Pret’s lack of labelling caused the individual to go into cardiac arrest on a flight to Nice and sadly pass away. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Pret products have led to allergic reactions. Several cases have been reported as far back as 2012. Allergic reactions often lead to hospitalisation. And it’s not just Pret. Another individual passed away after eating at Wagamama as once again, sesame was not listed on the menu. It can sound scary for a parent, but just because you have an allergy doesn’t mean you can’t dine out.

What can you do?

You probably don’t want to cook at home all the time – and you shouldn’t have to. So, what can you do to ease your anxiety of eating out?

A must is to check the labels and ingredient lists or menus. It’s worth requesting additional nutritional information if it’s not listed on packaging or menus. Some places, like Pret for example, include more nutritional information on their website instead of in store. Here are some other precautions you should take:

  • Read reviews of different restaurants. See if you can find any reviews specific to customers with allergies. For larger chain restaurants, including Pret A Manger, Buyagift has an easy-to-use reference guide.
  • Some cuisines are likely to contain certain allergens than others. For example, staple ingredients of Italian food include wheat and gluten. East Asian cuisine uses a lot of nuts
  • Be prepared for the worst. Pack EpiPens or other equipment you might need.
  • Just ask. Don’t be afraid to talk to the manager about your allergies and ask if any specific ingredients are used. If it makes you feel better, call ahead before your visit.

The future

There are already stringent guidelines in place for restaurants and cafes to follow, so most locations should be above board. The parents of the teenage girl are pushing for stricter guidelines, so eating out for someone with allergies should become even easier.

The odds are high that you know someone with an allergy; maybe someone in your family. You may have one without even realising. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so why not get yourself tested for food allergies. You might thank yourself later.

Find out if you or your child has allergies through our allergy testing services for peace of mind when eating out. Request a home test kit or book an appointment with one of our consultants today to find out more.

*All statistics referenced in this article are taken from here.

Coping with asthma in the winter

winter asthma

Coping with asthma in the winter

Some people love winter. Some hate it – and they have good reason to. For some individuals, illnesses can feel even more overwhelming due to the cold weather. Colds, coughs, and chest infections will plague us until spring, but for those who have asthma, these ailments can impact them differently. Breathing problems, tight chests, and even poor emotional health are all side effects of dealing with asthma in the winter.

What causes asthma?

The condition usually starts in childhood; the breathing tubes become inflamed which leads to them becoming temporarily narrow. This can cause several symptoms including:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest constriction
  • Coughing
  • Tiredness

There are many reasons why a person might suffer from the condition, such as:

  • Genetics
  • If they previously had bronchiolitis
  • Exposure to smoke
  • Hormonal changes in females

But, more often than not, it’s allergies that cause asthma attacks.


One of the biggest triggers is allergens – especially in the winter months. Due to the cold air, we are likely to keep windows closed, which can lead to a build-up of household irritants such as dust. To combat this, keep your home clean and tidy, and try to let the air circulate when possible. It may also be worth investing in anti-allergen bedding.

As the cold air can affect the upper respiratory system, people with asthma are likely to pick up infections easier than others. It makes a common cold or chest infection more difficult to cope with and even affect day to day life, as it can make breathing difficult and leave sufferers feeling exhausted.

Other triggers include:

  • Smoke
  • Pollution
  • Exercise

Aside from keeping your environment as free from allergens as possible, we recommend that you layer up to prevent the cold weather from affecting you too much. It’s also critical that you avoid spending too much time with people who have a common infection, as you are more vulnerable to illness.


If you have asthma, you may want to consider flu vaccination as the flu can cause the airways to become inflamed, which can trigger an attack. 8 out of 10 people say that the flu made their symptoms worse. Not getting the vaccination may lead to problems such as pneumonia.

It’s critical that you reduce your exposure to cold air, allergens, and the common cold and cough. Primary activities such as keeping you and your body clean, healthy eating, and plenty of sleep will help too. Investing in an inhaler is also essential.


Inhalers help sufferers to manage their asthma and can be prescribed in three types:

  • Reliever: to relieve symptoms
  • Preventer: to protect the airways so that symptoms aren’t as likely to occur
  • Combination: a mix of the two types

Whether you or your child have asthma, stay protected this winter to avoid further health problems. Keep your distance from allergens, and cancel plans with family and friends who have a cough or cold.

If you have asthma but don’t know if you suffer from allergies that might make it worse, request an allergy test from us today so that you don’t have to worry this winter.

World urticaria day UCARE 2018

world urticaria day

World urticaria day 2018

You will know October for Halloween, but there’s another essential date to add to your calendars. The 1st of October is World Urticaria Day, and 2018 is the fifth iteration of the global event. It helps to raise awareness of the condition and bring people together. But what is urticaria and what causes it?

What is it?

You might not recognise the clinical name of the condition, but you have probably heard of hives, weals, and welts. These names are commonly used in place of urticaria. It usually manifests on the body in itchy and angry looking bumps. Although it sometimes appears on just a patch of skin, it can, unfortunately, spread to many parts of the body.

Often, the rash will clear up in as little as 24 hours; however, this isn’t always the case. It may affect the skin for about six weeks before disappearing, something called acute urticaria. But in some severe cases, the condition can be chronic and will come and go over many years.

In rare cases, individuals may suffer from urticaria vasculitis; this causes the blood vessels in the skin to become inflamed. Although this type doesn’t last for years like chronic urticaria does, it can last for more than 24 hours and sometimes leaves bruises.


Acute urticaria affects about 1 in 5 people throughout a lifetime, and people who suffer from allergies are likely to be more at risk.

The condition can be triggered when high levels of histamine and other chemicals are released into the skin, usually as a result of exposure to allergens. The blood vessels then open up, causing the skin to turn red and potentially ‘weep’, leading to itchiness. If you suffer from this, it is advised that you stay clear of alcohol, stress, and warm temperatures as this can make symptoms get worse.

If you suffer consistently for six weeks or more, it isn’t likely to be a result of an allergy. However, if you have experienced it for less time than this, it is critical that you are allergy tested to make sure you know what is causing it.


Urticaria can become unbearable and can cause emotional distress; it sometimes even leads to depression. It can affect day to day life, and figures show that 1 in 7 people who suffer from chronic urticaria will experience emotional problems as a result.

Not everybody is aware of the skin affliction, and the effects it can have on a person’s life. The reality is that this is a far more common illness than people realise and we are spreading awareness. As an allergy clinic, sharing information about how allergies can affect people’s lives in big and small ways is essential to us.

This year’s slogan is “Do Better!” Because we can do more to raise awareness. This world urticaria day, search for the hashtags, #uday or #urticariaday, to find out about more people’s experiences of living with the illness, how you can help, and symptoms to look out for.

If you suspect you may be affected by urticaria, book an appointment with one of our experts in UCARE (Urticaria Centre of Reference and Excellence) London Allergy and Immunology Centre.

Wet wipes and allergies: fact or fiction?

Wet wipes and allergies: fact or fiction?

Allergy diagnoses are on the rise and people are becoming more aware of what can set off a reaction. You may have read the news lately about the risk of allergies children face from the use of wet wipes. Everyone seems to have mixed thoughts about whether this is fact or fiction – is the rumour being exaggerated or is it as risky as some people report?

Where did the rumour come from?

It’s critical that you’re aware of the origins of these rumours before assuming the worst. The idea came from a US study carried out by Northwestern University. They found that wet wipes could play a factor in developing an allergy, but only under certain circumstances.

Many newspapers ran with the story of “wet wipes cause allergies” which misrepresents the findings of the study. That isn’t to say you can’t develop allergies thanks to wet wipes – it’s a bit more complicated than that.


The study showed how neonatal mice reacted to several allergens include peanuts and dust irritants. It isn’t always easy to pinpoint the causes of allergens. There’s still a long way to go; however, new research has put the spotlight on factors such as altered skin absorbance and exposure to dietary or environmental allergens.

Figures suggest that 35% of children who have allergies also have atopic dermatitis. This is typically caused by genetic mutations that affect the skin barrier.

With this in mind, the study was done using mice who had skin barrier mutations. The mice were exposed to peanuts, which had little effect on its own. However, when other factors were used in the study, the results showed that the mice began to develop dry skin – akin to dermatitis. Really, the results of this study were nothing new or groundbreaking.

What does this tell us?

Primarily it suggests that allergies develop due to non-direct exposure to them through the skin. This isn’t a concern though because it would require a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions. For an allergy to potentially occur, the baby wipe residue would have to be improperly washed away. Then a child would have to come into contact with an allergen. This is on top of the genetic predisposition they would need to have.

So where does the panic come from if we now know that you have to jump through multiple hoops to even come close to developing an allergy?

Apart from general media hysteria, it’s always a good idea to be vigilant with what products you use on your child. Soaps, like those found on baby wipes, can cause the skin barrier to damage the fats which over time can cause dry and itchy skin.

The bottom line though is that it’s unlikely that a child would develop an allergy from wet wipes alone. We’re becoming a very health conscious nation, so it’s understandable why we’re quick to believe the rumours without understanding the science behind it. It’s critical to take the rumours with a pinch of salt.

If you need to find out once and for all what’s causing your child’s skin to itch, book a test with one of our consultants today to find out more.

Adult allergies: why do they happen?

adult allergies

Adult allergies: why do they happen?

If you suddenly find yourself with a blocked nose after a walk in the park, or your stomach turns after eating cake, there might be a reason why. Adult allergies can occur, and they aren’t uncommon.

The UK has some of the highest rates of allergic conditions with over 20% of the population suffering from at least one allergic disorder. But how do you know you have an allergy? What separates them from intolerances, and why do they randomly occur during adulthood?

What is an allergy?

An allergy is a reaction the body has to usually harmless substances such as dust or food. The immune system believes these allergens to be a threat and releases chemicals such as histamine in response. Common symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, and hives. In severe cases, allergies can have life or death consequences, with some triggers causing individuals to have an anaphylactic shock.

In the 20 years to 2012, there was a 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK.

What is an intolerance?

Intolerance is a sensitivity to specific ingredients. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea. They affect the digestive system, whereas allergies affect the immune system. Intolerances aren’t life-threatening; however, some symptoms are more harmless than others such as bloating. Severe reactions include diarrhoea, rashes, or reflux.


The main difference between allergies and intolerances is that allergies can be a reaction to everything from food to pollen. Counter to that, intolerance is a discomfort to only food.

  • Allergies can be life-threatening.
  • Allergy symptoms happen almost immediately after consuming triggering ingredients.
  • Individuals who suffer from an intolerance can eat triggering foods in small quantities.

Triggering ingredients often include gluten, dairy, and fructose.

Why do adult allergies develop?

It’s not uncommon for allergies to manifest during adulthood. Although there’s no definitive answer as to what’s behind a late onset of allergies, there are a few theories as to where they come from.


If you suddenly start sneezing when you’re around allergens such as pet hair or pollen, it can be caused by a lack of exposure. If you’ve lived your life in a city with minimal plant life for example, suddenly being in a pollen-filled environment may trigger hay fever.

In some cases, you may have always had an allergy present. But it may have been so minor that you didn’t even notice as it caused minimal discomfort. It’s possible that the allergy increased during adulthood.

Another reason may be that little exposure to bacteria and dirt may increase vulnerability to allergies as the body suppresses the natural development of the immune system. So when our immune system does come into contact with unclean environments, the body overreacts.


There are several ways to manage allergies including:

  • Avoiding triggering environments, ingredients, and other allergens.
  • Taking an antihistamine and using nasal sprays.
  • Regularly cleaning your home.

If you are experiencing symptoms of an allergy or intolerance, it’s best to find out the cause as soon as possible to reduce discomfort.

If you think you might be suffering from allergies but have never had them diagnosed, why not order one of our home testing kits today. Find out once and for all what’s causing you to sneeze and cough. Request an allergy test with us today or visit our website.

Are cosmetics affecting your allergy?

Are cosmetics affecting you?

Are cosmetics affecting your allergy?

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy or not, finding cosmetics that don’t leave your skin an oily or dry, angry, rash-covered mess can be complicated. It can affect your entire day and ruin a good night’s sleep. They are one of many items that make living life with an allergy hard. It’s not as easy as putting down the makeup, as irritants are in everything from soaps to baby wipes.

Everyone is different

Unfortunately, even gentle ‘hypoallergenic’ products can leave your skin red and itchy, or you eyes swollen. So many new products hit the shelves each year that it can be difficult keeping up with what is and isn’t right for your skin. The fact is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to what you should use. However, some ingredients will benefit you more than others.

If you think you’re reacting to a product, the first step is to eliminate as many products from your routine as possible and start to re-introduce them by patch testing.

What is a patch test?

If you aren’t familiar, this simple test can be carried out at home. All you have to do is apply a small amount of product to a ‘patch’ of your body (such as the inside of your elbow) and after a few hours, look for any signs of irritation. If your skin reacts, you’ll notice some itching or swelling in the area you applied the product too. Patch testing can help you identify which chemicals are causing your skin to react.

Irritant vs allergy

If the patch test leaves your skin looking angry, it could be either an irritant or an allergy. An allergy is likely to affect your skin several hours or days after being applied. This delayed reaction is known as allergic contact dermatitis. An irritant causes a response in less time, sometimes even immediately, which is known as irritant contact dermatitis.


Next time you want to try a new product, be wary of the ingredients. Even cosmetics that claim they are unscented may contain fragrances to mask the plain or chemical smell. Opt for fragrance-free toiletries instead and make a list of the ingredients you already know can irritate your skin. They may sound similar, but unscented products can also contain alcohol, parabens, and preservatives which are common irritants.

Plant extracts

Be wary of products that also contain plant extracts. You might believe them to be ‘natural’ and therefore less irritable, but that isn’t the case. While plant-based products are a fantastic alternative to perfumed cosmetics, plants may also be an irritant or allergen to your skin.

Although toiletries and bathing products for children aren’t usually as harsh on the skin, you may want to have your child tested for allergies too; if your child suffers from eczema, there is a greater risk of allergy.

If you’re unsure what’s causing your skin to itch and swell, book a test with one of our consultants today to limit your exposure to irritants.

Why eczema flares at night and how to deal with it

Eczema at night

Why eczema flares at night and how to deal with it

Eczema during the day isn’t easy to deal with, but at bedtime, it can be a nightmare. It disrupts sleep and causes anxiety. It sometimes increases the likelihood of health problems, such as insomnia.

What causes eczema to flare at night?

During the daytime, the body produces a natural anti-inflammatory called cortisol. Unfortunately, our cortisol levels drop during the night. This can leave eczema sufferers without the natural ‘protection’ against itchy, heated skin.

Dealing with discomfort

If you or your child has eczema, you already know how it feels to have lotions, potions and everything in between recommended to you that will ‘treat’ eczema. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. However, there are several ways to soothe discomfort so that you can have a peaceful night’s sleep.


Eczema sufferers are no stranger to staying clear of ‘triggering’ fabrics like wool and polyester. However, have you thought about investing in bedding that’s less likely to make your skin itch? Silk, satin or man-made materials aren’t soothing for your skin. They cause your body to sweat which can make your eczema sting and become more irritated. Linen and cotton are a far better option for bedding than man-made fabrics and will help keep your skin cool.

The same goes for pyjamas. Avoid wearing these types of fabrics and ‘prickly’ materials such as brush cotton or wool. It’s also important to use natural, no-fragrance washing powders and fabric softeners.


Temperature can play a significant role in how irritated your eczema can be. When getting ready for bed, we suggest turning down the heating and avoiding too many layers. You could use a fan, but that isn’t always the best solution. If you shower before bed, using cool/lukewarm water is preferable to hot water as your skin won’t react as severely. You should also use body washes or soap that are free from harsh and triggering chemicals.

Don’t scratch!

How many times have you been told, or had to tell your child, not to scratch? As the intensity of the condition develops during bedtime, it may be worth wearing cotton mittens to stop from scratching too much.


Although most eczema sufferers don’t have just one holy grail product for handling their eczema, you should keep your essential moisturisers by your bed ready to apply to prominent itches so that you avoid the urge to scratch.


Keeping your environment clean and dust free can make all the difference when it comes to eczema. Dust is a common trigger for flare-ups so spending a little time dusting at the end of the day can be a big help.


If you find that you’re experiencing some of these symptoms but aren’t sure that it’s eczema, or want to learn more about the skin condition, don’t suffer, book an allergy test. Talk to our consultants today to take the first steps towards getting a proper night’s sleep.

Sending your child with food allergies to school

Sending your child with food allergies to school

Being a parent of a child with food allergies can be daunting. When it comes to sending them to school, where their nutrition is out of your control, can be even worse. Common food allergies that children have, according to the NHS include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Although many other foods have been known to trigger an anaphylactic shock.

How to cope

There are ways which allow you and your child to have some reassurance while they attend school. By taking the necessary precautions you can create a safe environment for your child.

It’s important to make sure the school faculty are aware of your child’s allergies. This includes; nurses, canteen staff, teachers, and the headteacher. This allows you to be aware of the school’s system when taking care of an allergic reaction. In turn, you can have peace of mind while your child is away at school. Having good communication between staff and parents is beneficial in so many ways.

Making pre-packed food for your child is a great start. Mistakes can happen, and while kitchens adhere to strict standards, by managing what your child eats, you at least know that you’ve minimised the risk of ingestion. If your child is younger, by giving specialist snacks to your child’s teacher, you enable them to feel more integrated into the classroom.

Being prepared

Medication will need to be given to the acting school nurse. This supply of emergency medication should include an EpiPen. A legislation came into effect in October 2017 which allows schools in the UK to have spare adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs). The AAIs give a dose of adrenaline in the event of a severe allergic reaction, which could be life-saving. It’s especially important to inform the school if your child is at risk of an anaphylactic shock. Making sure you give permission to the staff to administer medicine is also vital. If staff are made aware they can be trained to spot when a child may be having an anaphylactic shock.

Some common symptoms of a food allergy include:

  • An itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears
  • A raised, itchy, red rash
  • Swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth
  • Vomiting

Posters around the school are another way to inform pupils as well as the staff information about allergies. Does your child’s school have these in place? If not, why not bring it up with the headteacher? Having posters around can also be a reminder for your child on the dangers. After all, your child’s safety is of paramount importance. Following these steps helps you both. Peace of mind for you, and a relaxed, stress-free environment for your child.

Do you think your child might be suffering from allergies but have never had them diagnosed? Let us help you. London Allergy and Immunology Centre will provide you with the best treatments available, so your allergies don’t get in the way of your life. Book an appointment with us today by calling 02031 433 449 or visit our website.

Summer cold or allergies?

summer cold or allergy?

Summer cold or allergies?

Do you spend the summer nights restless because you’re caught in a seemingly endless cycle of sneezing, or maybe you can’t get your eyes to stop itching! Well, it might be because the summer cold has returned and is in full swing.

What causes a summer cold?

The virus strain enterovirus causes summer colds whereas the rhinoviruses virus causes the winter cold. The enterovirus can infect the nose and throat tissue but can also affect the digestive system as well as skin.

It’s all too easy to pick up a summer cold during the heat as fans and aircon can dry out our nose which lets the enterovirus more likely to affect us.

How does it differ from a winter cold?

Summer and winter colds don’t differ much as both have similar symptoms; however, the winter cold is usually more full on but short-lived; whereas the summer cold continues for a prolonged amount of time. Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose/sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Temperature
  • A sore throat/cough

If your symptoms are a continuing issue, and they don’t show signs of stopping, you may have an allergy as these symptoms are also closely linked to allergies such as hay-fever. Signs that it’s an allergy include:

  • Your symptoms worsen in outdoor areas where there is a high level of pollen
  • Symptoms continue past the two-week mark
  • Your eyes are itchy, watering, or sting

If you know that you have allergies and that this signs ring true and worsen when you spend time outdoors, then the chances are that it’s your allergies flaring up. If you’re not sure or haven’t yet tested for allergies, then your next step should be doing just that.

Allergy testing

But it could always be your allergies acting up. We offer home testing across the UK both for adults and children. In fact, there are 400 allergens that could be affecting you without you realising. Just fill out our online form, receive your testing kit in the post, and return your results to us. It’s better to find out what’s causing your runny nose sooner rather than later.

Why suffer? You should be able to enjoy the summer by knowing what precautions to take to avoid discomfort. Allergy season may come and go; however, if your symptoms point to something other than hayfever or sensitivity to dust, then it’s better to find out.

Did you know that medical professionals could save more than 11,500 lives every year if people we open to seeking help before their symptoms took a turn for the worse?

Solve the mystery behind your summer sniffles with our remote home testing. At the London Allergy and Immunology Centre, we can test for over 100 different allergens at once. It’s time to find out whether it’s a cold or allergy that is bothering you. Book an appointment here to take the first steps to enjoy your summer not hate it.

LAIC Main Menu