In these difficult times, the Anaphylaxis Campaign will continue to provide support to many severely allergic adults and children who are at risk of anaphylaxis throughout the UK. Our aim is to provide accurate information, support and reassurance and campaign on your behalf. The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to some unexpected challenges for the allergic community and as we continue to monitor the situation, this page will be updated with the latest advice for schools, food businesses and individuals.
Many of you support us as Individual, Professional and Corporate members at this time. This continued support is extremely important to us and enables us to carry out our vital work, support you and give you the latest accurate, clinically based information.
If you know of anyone who would benefit from our membership scheme, please encourage them to contact us via [email protected].
If you have any questions that we haven’t answered here, please contact our Helpline on 01252 542029 or email [email protected] Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
We need you to work with us to continue raising awareness of anaphylaxis now more than ever. Like many small charities who do not receive government funding, we will find the next few weeks and months extremely financially challenging. If you are able to make a donation, of any size to our charity to ensure that we can continue our work, we would be extremely grateful. Click to donate here
If you are planning to host any fundraising events from your home, as always, our fundraising team is on hand to discuss any current or future ideas with you. Just email [email protected]
Thank you for your continued support
Coronavirus and Allergy
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect the lungs and airways. We continue to receive helpline enquiries from individuals and parents of children with allergies who are concerned about the risks they may face from Coronavirus. Please see our detailed ‘Coronavirus and allergies FAQs‘ for more information.
Anaphylaxis Campaign CEO Lynne Regent and Professor George Du Toit, paediatric allergy consultant and Anaphylaxis Campaign clinical panel member, discuss the concerns facing the allergic community during the Coronavirus pandemic in our ‘Managing Your Allergies In The Time Of Coronavirus’ webinar.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign endorses and reinforces the need for the allergic community to follow Government guidance in respect of Coronavirus. It is important that if you think that you have symptoms that you refer to official advice from the NHS and GOV.UK.
Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.Information for individuals
If you or your child experience anaphylaxis, administer your or your child’s adrenaline auto-injector as soon as possible and still call 999 for an ambulance. Please see our emergency instructions here.
Getting Medical Help from your GP
It is still important to get help from a GP if you need it. Advice may be provided on your GP surgery website or you may wish to phone your GP surgery.
A phone call/video call with a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional may be booked for you. Please see more information on the NHS website.
Getting Medical Help from your Pharmacy
Pharmacies still remain open for you to pick up medications, such as your adrenaline auto-injectors.
However, if you are self-isolating because you or another member of your household are experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, then you should call your local pharmacy to see if they have home-delivery facilities. Alternatively, someone from outside your household such as neighbour or friend can collect the medication for you provided you have told the pharmacy of this in advance. Find out more on the NHS website.
Getting Medical Help from your Allergy Clinic
Many allergy departments will have some of their time and staff diverted to help with the Coronavirus workload. Services may differ between trusts, however many face-face appointments will be converted to telephone or virtual consultations, unless face-face is absolutely essential.
If you can, stick to your tried and trusted products and recipes. Always check the label for your allergen/s. Even if you have bought the product before, check the ingredients label again. Recipes can and often do change and this won’t always be obvious from the front of the packaging. At the start of the government lockdown, food supply issues caused a lot of worry for those with food allergies. These issues now appear to be largely resolved but if you continue to have problems getting hold of the foods you need please get in touch and let us know. You can read more about our actions to help here.
Some people have been worried about not being allowed to touch products in stores. This was due to media reports that supermarkets had introduced ‘no touch’ policies. We wrote to the supermarkets and they told us that this is not the case. They understand the importance of checking labels. To read more about this issue see our news story here
To find out more about shopping for food safely at this time, please see this guidance for consumers from the Food Standards Agency
Changes to our food supply chains
The Food Standards Agency have told us that sudden changes in food supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have meant some changes to food business trading practices to ensure the ongoing supply of food. This means that, for a limited time, some mandatory information that does not impact on safety or traceability may be incorrect on food labels. We have been reassured that this will NOT affect allergen labelling and that all food products must still carry a full ingredients list as before. For more information about allergen food labelling regulations please see our guide here
Natural rubber latex, or latex, is a milky fluid obtained from the Hevea brasiliensis tree, which is widely grown in South East Asia, and other countries. Latex is an integral part of thousands of everyday consumer and healthcare items.
As with many other natural products, latex contains proteins to which some individuals may develop an allergy.
Many people are choosing to wear latex gloves in public places, increasing the risk of a serious reaction for those with a latex allergy. Frequent and prolonged use of latex gloves can also increase the risk of developing a latex allergy in the future.
The World Health Organisation does not recommend the use of gloves as a preventative measure against COVID-19. On their website they state:-
‘The use of gloves by the public in public spaces is not a recommended or proven prevention measure. Wearing gloves in public spaces does not replace the need for hand hygiene, nor does it offer any additional measure of protection against the COVID-19 virus than hand hygiene. Gloves do not provide complete protection against hand contamination, as pathogens may gain access to the hands via small defects in gloves or by contamination of the hands during glove removal. People can also transfer pathogens from one surface to another by touching with gloved hands, or even transfer pathogens to the mouth, nose, or eyes if they touch their face with gloved hands.’
If you still choose to wear gloves please choose non-latex options to ensure your safety and that of other individuals with latex allergy.
We continue to campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with latex.
Please read more about latex allergy here
We are aware that having an allergy can have a psychological impact on a person and their family. We want to reiterate the importance of understanding this impact at this crucial time where Coronavirus is possibly having a further impact on your mental health.
Our Factsheet The Psychological Impact of Anaphylaxis outlines the potential psychological effects of anaphylaxis and offer advice and coping strategies to individuals and families affected.
We have also been speaking with Dr. Ellie Atkins, Clinical Psychologist from St George’s Hospital in London, who has created the presentation below to explain the body’s physical reaction to anxiety and provide ways in which we can reduce these feelings. You can watch Dr. Atkins’ presentation here.
For young children, this can be a particularly confusing time as they adjust to being away from school and friends. Nurse Dotty books aim to help alleviate anxiety around being admitted to hospital for children and their families. They are written and illustrated by Molly Watts, a registered children’s nurse. Molly has recently published a book about coronavirus that aims to give information without fear. You can download ‘Dave the Dog is worried about coronavirus’ here.
For older children, this can also be a difficult time and have an impact on their mental health. The Children’s Commissioner has created a guide for older children which provides information on how to stay safe and also how to make the most of their time at home. You can download the ‘Children’s guide to coronavirus’ here.
Ordering takeaway food during COVID-19 – Special considerations
If you have a food allergy, it is now more important than ever before to take extra precautions when ordering food, particularly if the food business is new to providing food via distance selling.
There are strict laws covering the provision of allergen information in foods and you can read a detailed guide on our website here
When providing food through distance selling, businesses must provide allergen information about any of the 14 major EU allergens in the foods they prepare and serve whether that is ordered through an online platform or app, or over the telephone.
The allergen information must be available to you at two stages through the ordering process.
- Prior to the point of ordering – this can be given verbally or in writing (for example in an online menu)
- At the point of delivery – if a ‘no contact’ delivery is planned, this will need to be in writing (for example, stickers on packaging).
If you have concerns that a food business is not complying with these laws, you can report the business to your local Trading Standards.
Here’s some tips to help you prepare and stay safe.
- Always phone the restaurant in person to discuss your allergy requirements, don’t rely on notes or messages relayed online or through apps that may get missed.
- Ask about the dish/es that you’d like to choose and if they’d be suitable.
- Ask about ingredients, how the food is prepared and whether cross contamination with your allergens is likely. Speak clearly, factually, politely and calmly.
- Ask the person to make a written note of your allergy/ies.
- If the person sounds unsure and you feel the risks are high on this particular occasion, it may be best to try somewhere else.
- Be aware that recipes for a particular dish can vary from one restaurant to another and even in the same chain. A different chef may add or leave out particular ingredients. So just because you’ve eaten something on one occasion and been OK, doesn’t mean the dish is necessarily safe next time. ALWAYS check!
- Confirm that the dish you would like to order is free from your allergen/s, derivatives and from cross contamination and that it has been prepared safely.
- If you’re not confident that your request is being taken seriously, if they don’t seem to ‘get it’, if they can’t or won’t confirm that the food is free from your allergen/s, or if they won’t respond to your requests, it may be better to order elsewhere.
- If you are receiving the food through ‘no contact’ delivery (e.g. left on the doorstep) make sure to ask how your allergen free food will be labelled (e.g. stickers, or written on the packaging)
- If the allergen information is not clear when you receive the food, do not take the risk and eat it. Phone the food business and ask for a refund.
- Before you eat, make sure you have your medication with you, that it’s in date and that you know how to use it.
- If you think you are having a reaction, treat according to your emergency care plan and dial 999/get a friend to do so.
- If you feel at all faint or dizzy, then lie down on the floor, ideally with your knees up on a chair. Don’t stand up suddenly. If you are not faint but are wheezy, you will probably need to sit up.
- that all staff are trained in allergies and anaphylaxis. See our free AllergyWise training course for schools
- that they have purchased generic adrenaline auto injectors and that these are in date
Please see more information and advice from our Making Schools Safer project.
- that their two adrenaline auto injectors are in date and of the correct dose
- that their allergy Action Plan is up to date and signed
- that you have recently undertaken your AllergyWise training. See our free AllergyWise training course for parents of school-aged children
- our top tips poster for parents
MHRA COVID-19 Yellow Card reporting
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency MHRA COVID-19 Yellow Card reporting site forms part of the MHRA’s ongoing work to protect the public through enhanced COVID-19 vigilance and in preparation for large-scale use of potential new or repurposed medicines, medical devices, diagnostic tests and future vaccines. The site is not for reporting symptoms of COVID-19 and reporting for clinical trials should be in line with the trial protocols. The MHRA published a yellow card alert asking for Healthcare professionals to report all suspected side effects associated with any of the medicines being administered to patients in which COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed. This includes any medicines taken by patients to manage long-term or pre-existing conditions. It is also important for any suspected side effects in children and adolescents with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to be reported via the new site, as for adults. You can access the new site here coronavirus-yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk.
Most food businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of different ways and have had to adapt to frequently changing rules and regulations governing their operations.
It is vital that food businesses who may be new to operating a takeaway service, make sure they comply with the relevant allergen information and hygiene regulations in order to protect allergic consumers.
Deaths such as that of Megan Lee, aged 15, who died in 2017 after suffering a severe allergic reaction to takeaway food contaminated with peanut proteins, demonstrate that even under normal circumstances there is much work to be done to improve allergy awareness and standards in the takeaway industry.
All food for sale, including that sold via distance selling, is covered under the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, commonly known as EU FIC Regulation. This EU legislation has been implemented into UK law, via the Food Information Regulations 2014. The UK is still covered by this legislation even though we left the EU in January 2020.
Guidelines for the provision of allergen information for distance selling
Food businesses must provide allergen information about any of the 14 major allergens when they are used as ingredients in the food and drink they provide. This applies to all foods sold at a distance, whether that is through an online platform or app, or over the telephone.
The regulations state that allergen information must be available to the customer at two stages through the ordering process as follows:
- Prior to the point of ordering – this can be given verbally or in writing
- At the point of delivery – this will need to be in a written format that allows the customer to easily identify the dishes containing allergenic ingredients
Food businesses should keep accurate and up to date written records of the allergen information for the dishes they serve. This must be available to the customer at some point between ordering and taking delivery of the food.
How to provide allergen information prior to the point of ordering
Staff can provide this information verbally over the telephone, ensuring that they refer to their written record of allergen information. Best practice would be to ask all customers if they or any of their party have any food allergies or intolerances prior to taking the order.
There must not be any extra charges (for example, premium rate phone calls) for the customer to be able to obtain allergen information.
Alternatively, staff can signpost to the written allergen information (for example, an online menu)
How to provide allergen information at the time of delivery
Written allergen information could be provided in the form of stickers on the food containers which indicate the allergens which are in the food.
Alternatively, written allergen information such as a menu could be provided in the order, along with clearly labelled food containers to allow the customer to identify the dishes containing allergens and those that are allergen-free.
There may be disruption to the supply chain which may mean using different ingredients or suppliers to the usual choice. It is vital that staff check ingredient labels of any new products for allergens and that allergen information is updated promptly and accurately in menus and other written records.
When delivering food orders, thought must be given to how the allergen-free food will be kept separate from any other meals in the order to avoid cross contamination. It may be necessary to transport the food in a different bag or container. All food transportation bags and boxes must be thoroughly cleaned between deliveries to prevent cross-contamination.
As and when businesses begin to re-open, this is a good opportunity to review allergen information and hygiene practices and make any improvements that are needed.