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College Nurse speaks at national conference on anaphylaxis

An adrenaline auto-injector device. Credit: Greg Friese via Flickr

Sister Emma Dellar RGN, College Nurse and Head of Health at St John’s College, is speaking at the 2017 Healthcare Professionals Conference on anaphylaxis in London today. She will discuss guidelines at the University of Cambridge on anaphylaxis and advise on current issues for stocking adrenaline auto-injectors at higher and further education organisations.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction affecting more than one body system such as the airways, heart, circulation, gut and skin. It is commonly caused by exposure to foods such as peanuts, shellfish, eggs and milk as well as things like bee stings and certain drugs such as penicillin.

In the UK 12-16 people die each year from anaphylaxis and there has been a 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for the condition in the twenty years leading up to 2012. There are currently 22 students in the College community at St John’s who are known to be at risk from anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is treated with adrenaline and is available on prescription in a pre-loaded injection device to people known to be at risk. The adrenaline must be administered quickly, however, as people can die from anaphylaxis within minutes and those at risk are strongly advised to carry two devices, as one is not always sufficient.

If the individual in anaphylaxis is not carrying adrenaline the only option may be to wait for an ambulance, which may not arrive in time.

Due to concerns that many children may be unaware they have severe allergies or may not always carry their adrenaline injector, the government has recently given schools clearance to stock adrenaline devices. While there is no specific law against it, whether universities can do the same remains unclear.

Emma Dellar has been invited to speak at the 2017 Healthcare Professionals Conference, and will give a talk today to raise awareness of the vulnerability of young adults entering University to anaphylaxis. Dellar co-wrote guidance for the Universities Health and Wellbeing Committee in 2014 recommending that Colleges should have adrenaline injectors at their health centres. Since then some Colleges have been stocking the devices – a step that has led to four lives being saved in the last 18 months.

“Of the 20,000 students at the University of Cambridge, 400 are likely to be effected by anaphylaxis,” said Dellar. “Some of those may not be aware that they are at risk of a severe allergic reaction and studies suggest that up to 34% of young people don’t always carry their adrenaline injector.”

“While it could be considered a maverick approach to the problem, I think it’s particularly important for the Colleges and other health centres at higher education institutions to have these devices on-site. When they arrive at university, young adults may be trying new foods and experiences and for many of them it will be the first time that they are away from home and solely responsible for remembering to carry their adrenaline auto-injector.”

Dellar will give her talk at the annual conference in South Bank, London, on Thursday 16th November to  healthcare professionals that have an interest in allergy, including clinicians, care workers, dietitians, general practitioners, practice and district nurses, pharmacists, first aid trainers and school nurses.

Her talk, along those of the other speakers, will be available online via the 2017 Healthcare Professionals Conference’s Facebook page and website: https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/product/2017-healthcareprofessionalsconference/ .