Young people with severe allergies feel isolated and unsupported

New research done as part of the National Allergy Strategy Youth Project, targeting teens and young adults has identified some of the key issues facing the estimated 250,000 teens and young adults in Australia who live with severe allergies.

“Australia leads the world when it comes to the number of people with allergies, with around 20 per cent of the total population affected,” Associate Professor and Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy Richard Loh said.

“And while allergies are often seen as a condition of early childhood, research shows that as many as a quarter of a million teens and young adults live with severe, potentially life-threatening allergies.”

Of any age group, teens and young adults are at the highest risk of fatal, food-triggered anaphylactic reactions. To understand better how to help them, the first national online survey of young people in Australia aged 12-25 years with severe allergies was conducted, with some eye-opening results. They include:

  • Teens and young adults are reluctant to talk to their peers about their allergies, as they don’t want to be different or draw attention to themselves.
  • Many young people try to minimise the seriousness of their allergies so as not to ’cause a fuss’.
  • Considerable confidence is required to manage their allergies, particularly when it comes to eating out, asking for what they need, and carrying their adrenaline (epinephrine) autoinjector such as the EpiPen.
  • Younger teens face challenges in social contexts as they become more independent from their parents, such as how to manage their allergies at parties, school camps, or other social gatherings.
  • Managing intimate relationships (including the risks associated with kissing or close contact) was also an area of concern.
  • Many teens and young adults feel isolated and alone in dealing with their allergies, and were surprised to learn that about 250,000 others in their age group are similarly affected.

A desire to educate their friends about the seriousness of their condition was also a common theme.

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