Can we do more for children with allergies?29th November 2010
Child allergy specialist Dr Adam Fox from Guys’ & St Thomas’ Hospitals argues there are too few specialists to deal with young people with allergies.
More of our children than ever before are suffering from asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergies but the provision of NHS services for allergies remains seriously lacking.
This shortage is recognised by specialists and the government but the UK lags behind most other developed countries in allergy specialists.
There are currently 20 paediatric allergists in the UK and 27 adult allergists, compared to around 500 in France and similar numbers in Germany.
Most medical students qualify without ever having received any training about identifying or managing conditions such as food allergy and intolerance at a time that food allergy affects around 8% of infants.
NICE guidance on food allergy is a good first step but until medical students are properly taught about allergies, patients will get a raw deal.
Parents often have concerns about allergy dismissed by doctors and health visitors, resulting in worried parents seeking internet diagnosis or turning to alternative practitioners.
Milk allergy is one of the more common, and may trigger eczema, reflux, colic, diarrhoea and even constipation but it takes expertise to help children respond to this.
In the UK, we need to take the problem of allergy seriously and commit the time and resources to it.
GPs need to be given the tools to recognise allergic disease early and know how to diagnose and manage and when to refer on.
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