What is behind the rise in child allergies?

Pret a Manger, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse

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Natasha Ednan-Laperouse had a fatal allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger baguette

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Pret a Manger, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse

NHS statistics show a 167% rise in London hospital admissions in the past five years


One-Minute Read

Gabriel Power

Friday, November 15, 2019 – 1:18pm

The number of children admitted to hospital in England with severe allergic reactions has risen every year for the past five years, according to new NHS figures.

The health service reports that 1,746 children were treated for anaphylactic shock in 2018-19, an increase of more than 600 since 2013-14.

The BBC notes that “environmental factors, such as dietary changes, exposure to microbes and pollution” may have played a role in the increase.

Where have the figures come from?

The data were obtained by a charity set up by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, a teenager who died in 2016 after suffering a severe anaphylactic shock during a flight from London to Nice, France.

She was found to have eaten a baguette from Pret a Manger that contained sesame seeds, to which she was highly allergic, but investigators discovered that this had not been listed on the product’s packaging.

Natasha’s parents have since campaigned for a change in the law around food labelling, and in June the government announced the implementation of “Natasha’s law”, which will be introduced in 2021.

This will require foods that are pre-packed directly for sale to carry a full list of ingredients.

What has caused the spike?

The BBC reports that the increase in allergies is “not simply due to society becoming more aware of them and better at diagnosing them.

“Instead, scientists believe factors such as dietary changes, exposure to microbes and pollution may play a role in the rise – particularly for Western lifestyles,” it adds.

The rise in the east of England was 84%, followed by the West Midlands (59%), North West (56%), Yorkshire and the Humber (50%), South West (24%) and South East (22%). The region with the highest increase was London, The Guardian says, where the number of admissions rose 167% from 180 in 2013-14 to 480 in 2018-19.

One common issue is teenagers reportedly taking risks when managing their food allergies.

Natasha’s mother, Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, who set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation with Natasha’s father Nadim, said: “These terrifying figures show we are facing an allergy emergency.

“Scientists don’t yet understand why the numbers of children with allergies are on the rise, which is why it is vital that we invest in large-scale research projects into both the causes and potential cures.”

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