YOUNG people living with severe and often life-threatening allergies need more support to help them deal with their condition as they become adults, a Scottish study has found.
A growing number of children and young people are suffering from allergies from sources such as food, medication and pollen.
But many find it difficult to continue to get support as they grow older and the way services are provided changes as they become adults.
A survey of more than 500 severe allergy sufferers aged 15 to 25, carried out by Edinburgh University, found that not all were receiving the specialist care they needed.
The problem seemed to get worse as they got older – 34 per cent of those aged 15 to 18 years old said they were given appropriate medical care, compared with 23 per cent for those over 18, the researchers found.
Of the 520 people who took part in the survey, the majority said that they had lived with severe allergies since they were young.
More than half of those questioned reported having to go to accident and emergency units following an attack caused by an allergy. In severe cases, sufferers can experience anaphylactic shock which is an extreme allergic reaction which can cause life-threatening breathing difficulties.
The research, published in the Clinical and Translational Allergy journal, found that two-thirds of allergy sufferers said they always carried treatment with them in the form of special pens allowing them to administer adrenaline injections. But under a quarter said that they had used them.
Severe allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, is caused by contact with food such as nuts, eggs and dairy products and by bee or wasp stings, as well as latex rubber and certain drugs.
Sufferers can experience swelling in the throat and mouth, vomiting and unconsciousness. Without quick treatment, the condition can be fatal.
It is estimated that one in three adults and 50 per cent of children in the UK are diagnosed with an allergic condition.
Despite the widespread nature of allergies, some sufferers have reported a lack of understanding among some NHS staff who underestimate the severity of an extreme attack.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, from Edinburgh University’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, said: “The transition to adulthood can be particularly challenging for young people with severe allergies. They need to learn to balance personal safety with independent living.
“Information and support for young people and their families are crucial to successfully managing this transition.
“With the help of the food industry, professionals and patient support organisations can help to meet these needs.”