To say that mornings and I do not get along is something of an understatement, and early mornings are the worst. I am, without a shadow of a doubt, a genuine, bona fide, card-carrying night owl and so anyone who saw me out and about at 6.30am last Saturday, was probably left checking their watches and convinced that something extraordinary was going on. The occasion was Allergy UK‘s first annual conference, being held at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. I first heard about the event at the start of this year and had been excited about the prospect of finding out more about allergies from the experts attending and presenting at the conference. The day had been designed to address the needs of individuals and families dealing with allergies on a daily basis and consisted of speeches and workshops as well as open Q&A sessions held during the afternoon.
Professor Peter Howarth of Southampton General Hospital was the keynote speaker for the day. He opened the conference with a fascinating insight into the on-going and future research that is currently being carried out in the area of allergies and allergic responses. He talked about the recently well-discussed research into peanut allergies, which is looking at whether it is possible to “switch off” the allergic response through regular exposure to peanuts in known sufferers, and whether this approach could be applied to other allergies too.
I was also fascinated to learn from Professor Howarth about the link that appears to exist between Vitamin D and the allergic response. Studies carried out suggest that Vitamin D can help to reduce the allergic response, particularly in individuals suffering from asthma or urticaria and it is evident that much more research into this area could be extremely beneficial, although there is no funding available for this at the moment. This is definitely an area I will be keeping an eye on to see if it could be of benefit to M in the future.
Mike and I then attended 2 afternoon sessions, the first of which was a child allergy workshop and proved invaluable, not least because Dr Jo Walsh, who ran the session, explained clearly and concisely the difference between intolerances, IgE allergies and non-IgE allergies. Her excellent explanation simplified what is a complex and much-misunderstood area and would be an amazingly useful tool when trying to explain M’s food allergies to anyone who comes into contact with him. She also touched briefly on how to manage the risks to an allergic child out of the home and brought to our attention the NICE guidelines drawn up in 2011, that cover the diagnosis of food allergies and intolerances in children.
The second workshop was run by Dr Helen Brough and was aimed at looking at dealing with allergies with teenagers. Although this workshop promised a lot, I felt that it didn’t really deliver on our expectations. The time allowed was just too limited to even begin to touch on what is a complex situation and certainly didn’t really offer any practical tips on how to deal with your teenager and their approach to life with their allergies. She focussed a lot on the Adolescent allergy clinics they are beginning to introduce, but the time was spent discussing what the parents and teens in the room would like from such clinics, rather than on what is actually provided.
All in all, we were impressed with the day and would be keen to attend another one should Allergy UK decide to hold it again. There was lots of information available on the day, but I would recommend that the workshop sessions be extended in length as 45 minutes was just not long enough to spend in discussion on such an involving subject. I will be keeping my ear to the ground to see if Allergy UK run another conference next year and will let you know the minute I hear anything about it.