Calls for shocking images showing the dangers of alcohol to be put on bottles

Shocking images of diseased livers should be put on bottles of alcohol to warn people of the dangers of binge drinking, claim doctors.

They are calling for pictures of the harm caused by excess alcohol which would be similar to those planned for cigarette packets by the end of the year.

Graphic images that could include babies damaged by foetal alcohol syndrome should also go on posters in bars and pubs, said doctors attending the British Medical Association's annual conference in Edinburgh.

Binge drinking: Doctors want to target teenagers who think drinking excess alcohol is acceptable

Doctors also want soft drinks to become 'significantly cheaper' than alcohol, and labels showing alcohol units per drink to be a mandatory requirement on bottles and bar taps.

Dr Raj Nirula, a urologist at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, said alcohol consumption had apparently doubled since 1960, leading to more hospital admissions and associated crime.

Alcohol misuse costs the nation around £7.3 billion in crime and antisocial behaviour, while drinking alcohol is a factor in more than half of violent crimes.

Dr Nirula said the UK should lead the way in putting images on cans, bottles and posters.

He said: 'They should be in pubs and on bottles, on every single drink. Excessive alcohol causes cirrhosis of the liver and leads to a higher incidence of cancer.

Doctors say alcoholic drinks should carry warnings

'I think we have to take the lead. We are talking about alcohol misuse in society, this is becoming an epidemic.

'We have to start form an early age, to target teenagers - they are the ones getting into the culture.

'If one youngster does not drink they get asked "Why are you not drinking?"

'Binge-drinking is becoming the norm.'

Dr Nirula said adverts at Christmas time showing accidents caused by drinking made people think.

'We should use graphic images so that people are more aware of the dangers of drinking,' he added.

The Government has reached an agreement with the drinks industry to include health and unit information on most alcohol labels by the end of 2008, as well as reworded advice for women on alcohol and pregnancy.

Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said the issue of shocking images on drink bottles should be debated.

'But the question is of degrees. It’s right that we do more to remind people of the health risks they face from drinking heavily but we also need to avoid alienating people with imagery or language that doesn’t necessarily chime with their experience of drinking.

'For that reason we support the incorporation of clear, factual health advice on labels.'

A BMA report earlier this year concluded that greater restrictions are needed on access to alcohol, along with higher taxes.

It demanded that supermarkets stop treating alcohol like any other commodity, running loss-leaders and 2 for 1 deals that fuel the binge-drinking culture.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: 'Tackling the culture of harmful binge-drinking is a priority for Government and we are working with the alcohol industry and other stakeholders to implement a comprehensive strategy to tackle it.

'Shortly, we will be reporting results of the independent reviews on alcohol price and promotion, and the industry's own social responsibility standards and are committed to considering the need for any future legislation in the light of these.

'In May, we launched the Know Your Limits unit awareness campaign and the Home Office have launched a new campaign targeting 18-24 drinkers, challenging public acceptability of drunkenness and binge-drinking.'


Hospitals on alert as drinkers steal high-alcohol hand gels used in battle against superbugs

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A string of deaths have been caused by the colourless gel, which contains 70 per cent alcohol.

Hospitals are being forced to remove the gel from public areas and instead have it only on wards under the watchful eyes of nurses.

At least two people have died this year after drinking the gel and Lewisham hospital in South East London confirmed 10 cases where people had stolen the gel from its building.

Alert: The alcohol-based gel has been removed from all public corridors at Lewisham Hospital

The thefts happened between March 2007 and June this year.

It is thought the gel is mixed with other alcoholic drink to make a deadly homebrew.

Last Tuesday Southwark Coroner Court heard how two homeless men died in agony after drinking the deadly disinfectant.

Thomas Sajdak, 29, was found dead in Streatham, South London, in February, while his friend Oleh Wowczyshyn, 29, collapsed and died four days later after complaining of severe stomach pains.

Detective Constable Nainesh Desai confirmed at their inquest that the deaths were caused by drinking "hospital fluids".

Petra Salva, spokesman for homeless charity Thamesreach, said: "It's a horrible way to die.

"We've started to get reports of this from speaking to people sleeping rough and police who have met people with bottles (of the gel).  

"A lot of it has been anecdotal so far but it's something that's come onto our radar and we have been looking into it ourselves over the past three months." 

The colourless gel, called Spirigel, has been introduced into hospitals as an effective way of trying to prevent superbugs, including MRSA, being passed from visitors to patients.

A NHS source said: "This handwash is a vital tool in combating the spread of bugs, and we encourage everyone on wards to use it regularly.

"Having to remove it from public areas because of abuse is obviously causing hygiene problems."

Drinking just one glass of wine a day can INCREASE risk of cancer by 168%, say the French!

The INCA study said alcohol was now the second most avoidable cause of death after tobacco.

The findings contradict numerous other studies which have found that the antioxidants in red wine actually reduced the risk of cancer, and that a single glass a day was also good for the liver.

A separate study last year published in the medical journal Neurology said those who drank modest amounts of alcohol developed dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, at an 85 per cent slower rate than those who did not drink.

Britain is the tenth biggest drinking nation in the world, consuming around 12 litres of pure alcohol per person per year - the equivalent of three glasses of wine every day.

Luxembourg consumes the world's most, at 16 litres per year, ahead of Ireland, Hungary and Moldova, all on around 14 litres.

France is in 17th place, on around 11 litres of pure alcohol per year, according to World Health Organisation figures.

The same study also found that eating more than 500g (1.2lbs) of red meat can also raise the risks of colonic cancer, and that excessive levels of salt raise the risk of stomach cancer.

The report added: 'Cancer is dependent on many factors, and there is no miracle diet that remove the risks.

'But eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and doing regular physical exercise has been proven to reduce the risks dramatically.'

Thousands of young teenage girls hospitalised after binge drinking

More than 5,000 girls under the age of 16 needed hospital treatment last year after bingeing on alcohol.

The number, which includes girls as young as ten, has soared by 21 per cent in the past five years.

The increase is even larger among older age groups.

In 2007-08, just over 13,000 young women between 17 and 21 were admitted to hospital for problems caused by alcohol, up almost 50 per cent from 2003-04.

The dramatic increase highlights the problems of the growing ladette culture among young women, which is seeing women being diagnosed with liver disease at a much younger age.

But among women aged 26 or over there has been a similar rise. Almost 300,000 needed hospital treatment compared with 196,625 five years earlier  -  again up nearly 50 per cent.

The figures, which emerged in response to a parliamentary question by Labour MP Sally Keeble, include treatment for conditions ranging from upset stomach to mental or behavioural problems triggered by alcohol.

Last October, Mrs Keeble launched a Private Member's Bill calling for a minimum price on alcohol to deter heavy drinking, an idea which has since won the support of England's Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson.

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Last night, Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: 'Yet again we see in the starkest possible terms  -  a 50 per cent increase in alcohol-fuelled hospital admissions in young women over the last four years  -  that current alcohol harm reduction strategies are simply not working.

'We must urgently support existing public health campaigns with tough action on round-the-clock availability of supermarket cut-price drink.'

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said the figures show alcohol misuse is 'one of the most serious public health issues facing the UK'.

The blame for binge drinking among women has often been laid at the door of alcopops, but sales have fallen by half from around £ 800million a year in 2005 to £405million last year. Experts say young drinkers are switching to alternatives such as cider over ice.

Last week researchers from the University of the West of England found that more than half of girls and boys aged 15 and 16 admitted regularly drinking to excess.

Children under 12 need A&E treatment for binge drinking every 48 hours

A child under 12 needs emergency hospital treatment every 48 hours because of binge drinking.

Official figures show that 181 young children were admitted to A&E departments last year for alcohol abuse.

The statistics were revealed as doctors called for higher alcohol prices and a ban on advertising to stem the toll of deaths and harm caused by excess drinking.

Concern: One in four underage drinkers consumes 20 units a week

The British Medical Association has demanded that the Government impose a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

At its annual meeting in Liverpool yesterday, the BMA backed the restrictions, which were recommended by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, earlier this year.

However, the Department of Health rejected the calls, saying such restrictions would unduly impact on the majority of responsible drinkers.

The figures, released in a parliamentary question, show that since 2002, 1,426 children under 12 have been admitted to hospital due to alcohol abuse.

Some 4,441 youngsters aged between 12 and 16 also had to be treated in A&E for alcohol abuse, an increase of 12 per cent in just seven years.

Among 16 to 17-year-olds, there were 7,766 admissions over the same period, a rise of 66 per cent.

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Dr Keith Brent, a paediatrician from Bournemouth, told the BMA he was regularly dealing with drunk children, with an eight-year-old the youngest he has ever treated.

And he warned that teenagers are getting 'tanked up' on 'really cheap cider, cheap vodka and alcopops' bought from supermarkets before going on to drink at pubs and clubs.

Dr Brent also claimed it was 'ludicrous' for the Government to refuse to impose a minimum price for alcohol, with research showing it would add just 23p a week to shopping bills.

It is estimated that introducing minimum pricing would cut hospital admissions by 100,000 every year in England and save more

than £1.37billion over a decade. However, Dr Charles Daniels, from the BMA's GPs' committee, warned doctors against 'nanny state politics'.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, who obtained the figures, said: 'Unless we invest in treatment services, put an end to alcohol being sold at pocket money prices, and start educating children, then these figures are only set to get worse.'

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'While there is good evidence alcohol is linked to people drinking more, it is important that any government interventions reduce harm without impacting unduly on the majority of responsible drinkers.'


Average Briton drinks 84 times their bodyweight in alcohol

The average adult consumes 84 times their body weight in alcoholic drinks over the course of their life, say researchers.

Or, to put it another way, if all the drinks we consume in our lifetime were to be placed on a giant pair of scales, they would weigh the equal of an adult bull elephant.

Enlarge   Carol Vorderman at the launch of the ALCulator, a tool which is part of Lloyds pharmacy's Neighbourhood Health Watch programme, at the Spice Buffet Pub in Birmingham

On average, Britons drink 3.7 pints of beer, or 8.5 large glasses of wine, each week.

If they were to sustain this for 60 years they would consume 11,800 pints – which weighs in at 6.6tons.

For an average adult weighing 12 and a half stone, this works out as 84 times their body weight, according to figures compiled by Lloyds Pharmacy.

The research warns that many drinkers consume around 1,000 calories each week just from alcohol.

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They also say the average Briton spends £770 a year on drink.

Academics have said that alcohol could soon overtake smoking as a leading cause of death and blame drink for many cancers as well as high blood pressure and a surge in liver disease.

Britain has one of the highest rates of binge drinking in Europe, and alcohol is believed to cause 40,000 deaths a year.

For more information on the Alculator please visit www.lloydspharmacy.com/alculator

Revealed: the astonishing amount one fifth of British 15-year-olds drink in a year

As Britain's schoolchildren enjoy the freedom of the long summer break, an alarming new government report has revealed just how much alcohol they are drinking.

According to Department of Health statistics, one in five young people between 11 and 15 drinks more than 600 units a year.

This amounts to an astonishing mountain of alcohol. Britain’s binge-drinking epidemic sees 200 under-18s admitted to hospital every week with drink-related injuries.

But it’s the long-term damage these young people are doing to their bodies that concerns me.

As someone who helped to establish the first liver transplant programme in this country back in 1969, and oversaw George Best’s liver transplant in 2002, I am horrified by the latest figures.

It would be worrying enough if they related to older teenagers, but in fact none of the 7,700 school pupils interviewed for the NHS Information Centre’s report was over 15.

Many were as young as 11. The immediate ill-effects may be nothing worse than a hangover but - however much we like to pretend otherwise - alcohol is a poison.

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Teenagers do not reach full physical maturity until they are in their 20s, so they are pouring toxins into bodies which are still at a crucial stage of development.

There is also evidence that drinking a lot in a short space of time is worse for your health than more frequent drinking of smaller amounts.

Since young people are more likely to binge-drink, they are placing themselves at even greater risk.

Here are some of the ways in which alcohol affects our children.

Liver

In my clinic, I see a disturbing number of young people with severe alcoholic hepatitis - an acute inflammation of the liver, which can lead to jaundice, coma and even death.

Long-term, excessive drinking can also cause cirrhosis, in which the normal liver tissue is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue.

The incidence of cirrhosis in this country has increased tenfold in recent decades, with some patients who have been drinking since their early teens facing terminal liver disease in their 20s.

Heart

Drinking affects the rate at which the heart beats and the high levels of alcohol in the blood associated with binge drinking can create an irregular rhythm which causes sudden cardiac arrest.

In later life, those who drink at an early age also face the danger of raised blood pressure and heart disease.

Brain

Apart from the impaired judgment which makes intoxicated youngsters more likely to have casual sex - with all its attendant consequences - getting drunk also causes long-term damage to the brain.

Just at the age when they should be at their sharpest, teenage drinkers may be impairing their reaction times, memory and attention span.

One study by the Institute of Child Health suggested that teenage drinkers are 30 per cent more likely to leave school with no qualifications.

They were also 40 per cent more likely to use illegal drugs and suffer mental health problems.

Pancreas

This organ is crucial to digestion. By their late 20s, those who drink heavily at an early age may develop painful pancreatitis, which can cause permanent loss of function. They also have an increased risk of diabetes.

Cancers

Drinking to excess is associated with a higher incidence of common cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, breast, colon and pancreas.

Physical and emotional development

Excessive drinking during puberty may upset the critical hormonal balance necessary for normal development of organs, muscles, bones and the reproductive system.

Alcohol abuse also exacerbates conditions such as depression and stress, with suicide a major cause of death in 15- to 34-year-olds in the UK today.

Doctors gunning for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley over NHS reforms

Doctors are set to deliver another blow to Andrew Lansley’s faltering NHS reforms today – by lambasting them at a specially convened conference.

Some 350 delegates have been summoned to London for an emergency meeting of the British Medical Association to discuss dozens of motions highly critical of the Health Secretary’s policies.

And the medical profession may even declare at the meeting that it has no confidence in Mr Lansley.

The meeting is expected to confirm that most doctors are firmly opposed to the controversial proposals to hand £80billion of the Health Service budget to GPs.

Doctors are expected to claim his changes will worsen patient care, squander billions of pounds and threaten the principles of the NHS.

Their motions will lay bare a nightmare scenario under which services could be cut, waiting times could lengthen and hospital departments could close – as a direct result of the reforms.

It tops an awful few days for the embattled Health Secretary, whose controversial NHS reforms are coming in for mounting criticism.

Critics say his wholesale changes – the biggest since the NHS was formed in 1948 – are being rushed through with little consultation and despite not having appeared in either of the Coalition parties’ manifestos.

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It has also emerged that former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn has snubbed Mr Lansley’s offer to head up the powerful quango which will run the Health Service. The Blairite MP indicated that he had no confidence that the Coalition’s policies would improve the NHS.

And on Saturday, LibDem activists voted to oppose the broad thrust of his NHS policy, in particular opening it up further to private providers.

As a result, Mr Lansley was forced to agree to allow his Health Bill to be revised as it passes through Parliament – but a Downing Street spokesman said any changes would not be ‘significant’. Critics say the Health Secretary has failed to explain why there is such an urgent need for an expensive top-down reorganisation of the NHS.

Now the BMA has called a ‘special representative meeting’ to discuss the historic changes.

The 205 motions, which are largely critical, attack the pace and scale of the reforms, the role of the market and worries over patient confidentiality.


Doctors gunning for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley over NHS reforms

Doctors are set to deliver another blow to Andrew Lansley’s faltering NHS reforms today – by lambasting them at a specially convened conference.

Some 350 delegates have been summoned to London for an emergency meeting of the British Medical Association to discuss dozens of motions highly critical of the Health Secretary’s policies.

And the medical profession may even declare at the meeting that it has no confidence in Mr Lansley.

The meeting is expected to confirm that most doctors are firmly opposed to the controversial proposals to hand £80billion of the Health Service budget to GPs.

Doctors are expected to claim his changes will worsen patient care, squander billions of pounds and threaten the principles of the NHS.

Their motions will lay bare a nightmare scenario under which services could be cut, waiting times could lengthen and hospital departments could close – as a direct result of the reforms.

It tops an awful few days for the embattled Health Secretary, whose controversial NHS reforms are coming in for mounting criticism.

Critics say his wholesale changes – the biggest since the NHS was formed in 1948 – are being rushed through with little consultation and despite not having appeared in either of the Coalition parties’ manifestos.

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It has also emerged that former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn has snubbed Mr Lansley’s offer to head up the powerful quango which will run the Health Service. The Blairite MP indicated that he had no confidence that the Coalition’s policies would improve the NHS.

And on Saturday, LibDem activists voted to oppose the broad thrust of his NHS policy, in particular opening it up further to private providers.

As a result, Mr Lansley was forced to agree to allow his Health Bill to be revised as it passes through Parliament – but a Downing Street spokesman said any changes would not be ‘significant’. Critics say the Health Secretary has failed to explain why there is such an urgent need for an expensive top-down reorganisation of the NHS.

Now the BMA has called a ‘special representative meeting’ to discuss the historic changes.

The 205 motions, which are largely critical, attack the pace and scale of the reforms, the role of the market and worries over patient confidentiality.


Alcoholics given mobile phones to help them quit drinking

Health chiefs have launched a £75,000 project to send encouraging texts to alcoholics on special mobile phones.

Detox patients will receive automated daily SMS messages to check they're staying sober. They'll text back to say they're doing OK - or need help.

The dedicated handsets are being handed out to 120 addicts in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in the first scheme of its kind in Britain. They cannot be used to make or receive standard calls.

The dedicated handsets are being handed out to 120 addicts in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in the first scheme of its kind in Britain. They cannot be used to make or receive standard calls

If patients respond to their daily text with a positive response, saying they are fine, they get an automated reply congratulating them on their progress.

But if they text back that they are in danger of drinking again, they'll be offered face-to-face help or a phone conversation with a key worker as soon as possible.

The programme was developed after research showed 80 to 90 per cent of people treated for alcohol dependency relapse within a year.

Debra Malone, consultant in public health at NHS Bolton, said: 'The best way to make sure service users successfully adjust to a life without alcohol is to provide them with ongoing support during this difficult period of adjustment.

'However, this is not easy to achieve when the client is back in their own home. Normally there is little or no contact between the service user and the service in the periods between set appointments and it is often during these periods that people can experience stress and be tempted to drink again. We hope this project can change that.'

Bolton is the first place in the country to use the innovative technique to help detox patients.

The Bolton Relapse Prevention Project is a joint initiative between NHS Bolton, Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and d2 Digital by Design, funded by healthcare improvement charity The Health Foundation.

The 120 phones being given out are designed solely for the scheme.

They can send to and receive messages from an automated system and cannot be used for any other purpose. This means the handsets have no street value. If someone does not reply, a member of the alcohol team will ring them on their home phone.

It is hoped that by maintaining contact with patients and providing them with a line of direct communication, more people will successfully complete their post-detox treatment programme and be able to stay alcohol-free.

Other possible benefits include reducing demand on other health services, the criminal justice system and welfare agencies.

If the scheme works, the technology could be used to help people with a range of conditions.

Britons drink 5,800 pints in a lifetime (and suffer 726 hangovers!)

If you're suffering from a hangover after an ill-advised drink after work last night, you may not be pleased to know it is just one of 726 that you will experience.

It's not surprising when you consider the average Briton will down more than 5,800 pints during their adult life as well as glug 8,700 glasses of wine.

A survey of 2,000 people found we drink at least three nights a week and have nine drinks in total - which works out at 468 a year.

However, while over half (57 per cent) sip a beverage in the comfort of their own home, just 17 per cent say they regularly visit the pub.

The resulting bar bill comes to an eye-watering £58,201 over a lifetime.

The poll, by Benenden Healthcare Society, also revealed a fairly widespread dependency on alcohol.

The average Briton starts experimenting with alcohol at the tender age of 14.

Four out of 10 admitted they can’t go longer than a week without having a drink, while 10 per cent said they would struggle to make it through just two days without cracking open a bottle.

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Popular reasons for indulging included drinking to 'unwind' (40 per cent) and 'escapism' (17 per cent).

Meanwhile, one in five polled admitted they can’t have fun out on a night out if they don’t drink.

Andrew Meredith, medical director at Benenden Hospital, said: ‘This survey highlights the dysfunctional relationship many of us have with alcohol.

'The results can be seen in our town centres every weekend, in A&E departments where alcohol related conditions and injuries are a large part of the workload and the increasing numbers of admissions with alcohol related liver disease.’

Lawrence Christensen, of Benenden Healthcare, added: ‘We wish to draw attention to these levels of alcohol consumption, which not only pose a medical risk but a lifestyle risk in terms of financial cost.

'With 726 hangovers and being £58,201 out-of-pocket, "enjoying a drink" regularly takes on a new dimension.’

Average Briton spends FOUR years with a hangover

The average adult spends FOUR years of their life with a hangover, a study has revealed.

Researchers found we struggle with a splitting headache and nausea for 24 days a year, which equates to 1,452 days during an average adult lifetime.

The survey of 2,000 adults, by YorkTest, found while Saturday and Sunday were the most common 'sorehead' days, one in 10 said they were often hungover on a Monday.

Hungover? The average adult spends four years with a sore head, as portrayed by Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms

Dr Gill Hart from YorkTest, said: 'Feeling the effects of the night before adds up to a staggering number of days where we feel worse for wear.

'It's one thing having a drink and enjoying yourself, but often it doesn't take much to tip you over the edge and you'll be nursing a headache the next morning.

'This means millions of Brits turn up to their office and do little work, don't turn up to work at all or waste their day spending it in bed.'

Eight in ten said they 'get the shakes' during hangovers, seven in ten suffer from tiredness and four in ten get nauseous. Another one in five can't stop sweating and the same number feel dizzy.

Nearly half have rung in sick and skived off work following a heavy night.

A third said they had received a 'talking to' by their boss for their behaviour while one in ten have even been sacked.

The results come on the same day that teenagers have been warned to avoid mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

A Government health expert said revellers who down high energy cocktails are less likely to realise just how drunk they are.

Dr Tony Jewell, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said: 'We would consider mixing caffeine drinks and alcohol risky behaviour, especially if people drink excessive amounts.'

Warning: Energy cocktails contain high levels of alcohol, caffeine and sugar

Dr Jewell is backing a report by Alcohol Concern that has warned drinkers to cut out popular choices such as vodka and Red Bull and 'Jagerbombs' - which mix energy drinks with the liqour Jagermeister.

The alcohol charity said caffeine and sugar mask the effects of alcohol and can also increase the chances of heart disease, obesity and tooth decay.

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Alcohol Concern spokesman Andrew Misell, said: 'Sales of energy drinks have shot up in the UK in recent years, particularly among young people, but there is a general lack of guidance about the dangers of mixing high-caffeine drinks with alcohol.

'Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics they cause the body to pass water so mixing energy drinks with alcohol can leave drinkers badly dehydrated, possibly leading to vomiting, nausea, and other health problems in the long term.

'What’s more dangerous, perhaps, is that the stimulant effect of so much caffeine can mask the depressant effect of the alcohol.

'People drinking energy drinks with alcohol may feel very alert and not realise how drunk they are. One possible result of this is that drinkers will take more risks.'

However, it is likely the warnings will fall on deaf ears, as teenagers are encouraged to go on mass pub crawls organised by university societies or companies like Carnage UK.

WHAT'S INSIDE THOSE ENERGY COCKTAILSDRINK ALCOHOLCAFFEINESUGAR2 X Jagerbombs2 Units1 Coffee6tsp1 X Vodka Redbull2 Units1 Coffee7tsp1 X can of pre-mixed alcoholic energy drink8 Units1 Coffee20tsp

Still, the charity wants energy drinks makers to warn buyers about the dangers of mixing their products with alcohol.

It has also launched a website publishing the amount of alcohol, sugar and caffeine in popular drink combinations.

Alcohol addiction already costs the NHS £2.7billion a year - a sum that has doubled from five years ago.


Living alone 'increases risk of dying from alcohol'

We all like to have our own space but apparently living alone could be putting your health at risk.

A Finnish study found two-thirds of people who died from an alcohol-related disease or accident were living alone.

Researchers said this suggested a lack of social relationships should be regarded as a potential risk factor for death from alcohol related causes. 

They added that living alone was a very modern phenomenon that had weakened social relationships, with fewer people getting married or living in extended families.

The team, led by Kimmo Herttua from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in Helsinki, analysed information from the 18,200 people who died as a result of alcohol between 2000 and 2007.

Causes of death included liver disease alcohol poisoning and accidents, as well as violence that involved alcohol.

The results revealed between 2000 and 2003 men who lived alone were 3.7 times more likely to die of liver disease compared to married or cohabiting men.

Between 2004 and 2007, this disparity had increased to five times the risk.

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Women living alone were also at increased risk from alcohol-related deaths although the risk was smaller.

In Finland in 2004 the price of alcohol had dropped, suggesting that solitary men  were particularly vulnerable to the increased availability of alcohol.

Writing in PLoS Medicine, the team concluded: 'Living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or the specific cause of death.'

They added that further research was needed in other countries with different drinking cultures to confirm a general association.

Leading doctor warns of liver failure epidemic in young adults as cases soar

Consultants have called on the Government to introduce new curbs on alcohol advertising to protect young people.

In an open letter they warned Britain is facing an epidemic of liver disease caused by a binge drinking culture and cheap booze.

The North East has been hit particularly hard with figures showing a 400 per cent increase in the number of hospital admissions for people in their early 30s with alcoholic liver disease.

The consultants are supporting a campaign by Balance, the north east of England's alcohol office, demanding a stop to the alcohol industry recruiting young people as the next generation of problem drinkers.

Balance said children were 'swimming through 40% proof advertising' and were being encouraged to start drinking younger, and to drink more.

In the open letter published in The Guardian the consultants, mostly liver specialists and gastroenterologists, blamed the problem on our having created 'an excessively pro-alcohol culture by selling alcohol for pocket money prices'.

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They said a decade ago it was unusual for a liver specialist to treat anyone for alcoholic cirrhosis who had not reached their 50s.

'Alarmingly, this is no longer the case. In the North East we are in the middle of an epidemic,' they add.

'It is clear we need to halt this epidemic in its tracks, otherwise we will soon be treating young men and young men and women in their 20s on a regular basis for a disease that is 100% preventable.'

A spokesman for Balance said: 'It's time we said enough is enough.

'Our children are being bombarded by alcohol advertising which is encouraging them to drink alcohol at an early age - and in greater quantities.

'Early consumption is linked with a host of problems including brain damage, truancy, experimenting with drugs and unsafe sex.

'We don't think that it's normal for children to be bombarded by alcohol adverts while going about the business of being children.'

Balance's petition demands a ban on alcohol advertising on television and non-18 certificate films in the cinema, as well as a halt to the sponsoring of sports and cultural events.

The North East has the highest rate of 11 to 15 year olds drinking. This means they are more likely to be victims of crime, have unprotected sex, and under perform at school.

Research by Balance showed North-East hospitals recorded 189 admissions for 30 to 34-year-olds with the disease last year, compared with 37 in 2002.

In total, there were 778 admissions for 30 to 34-year olds with alcohol liver disease between 2002 and last year, costing the NHS about £1.8m.

There were a further 482 admissions for under-30s, with some people admitted under the age of 20.

In all, in the past eight years there have been 21,798 alcoholic liver disease admissions across the region, costing the NHS £51.7m.

THE LETTER IN FULL

Dear editor

When it comes to alcohol and the liver, the general rule is that the volume and duration of consumption determines whether someone will have a problem.

As recently as a decade ago, it was unusual for a liver specialist to treat anyone for alcoholic cirrhosis who had not reached their fifties.Alarmingly, this is no longer the case.

In the North East we are in the middle of an epidemic. We have witnessed a 400% increase in the number of 30-34 year olds being admitted into our hospitals with alcoholic liver disease since 2002.

This early onset is due to the fact that people are drinking at much earlier ages and in much greater quantities than ever before.

The average adult now consumes just under 11 litres of pure alcohol each year, more than double the levels recorded in the 1950s.

People are consuming in this way because we've created an excessively pro-alcohol culture by selling alcohol for pocket money prices, promoting it heavily and widely and making it available 24 hours a day.

It's clear we need to halt this epidemic in its tracks, otherwise we'll soon be treating young men and women in their twenties on a regular basis for a disease that is 100% preventable.

That's why we're supporting en masse a campaign which has been launched in our region by Balance, the North East alcohol office.

It calls for Government to stop the alcohol industry recruiting our children and young people as the next generation of problem drinkers.

By preventing the alcohol industry from reaching children and young people through TV, social networking sites, under-18 films in the cinema and sponsorship of sporting and youth events, we begin to make drinking early and in large quantities less normal and less acceptable.

We begin to change the excessively pro-alcohol culture, which the alcohol industry spends an estimated £800m a year on marketing to sustain.

We need everyone who is concerned about the lives and futures of our children and young people to back this campaign and sign the petition at www.balancenortheast.co.uk

Yours sincerely,

:: Chris Record, consultant physician and liver specialist at Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals:: James Crosby, consultant gastroenterologist, City Hospitals Sunderland:: Andrew Douglass, consultant gastroenterologist, South Tees NHS Trust:: Jane Metcalf, honorary senior lecturer and consultant physician, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust:: Simon Cowlam, consultant gastroenterologist, City Hospitals Sunderland:: Stuart McPherson, consultant hepatologist Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne:: Emma Johns, consultant gastroenterologist, Gateshead:: Elizabeth Phillips, consultant gastroenterologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Northumbria Healthcare NHS:: Colin Rees, consultant gastroenterologist, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust:: Christopher Wells, consultant gastroenterologist, University Hospital of North Tees:: Anthoor Jayaprakash, consultant physician and gastroenterologist, Wansbeck Hospital:: Deepak Dwarakanath, consultant physician, University Hospital of North Durham:: Zahid Mahmood, physician and lead gastrologist, North Cumbria University Hospitals:: S. Zafar Abbas, consultant gastroenterologist, Hexham General Hospital:: Dr Anthony Macklon, consultant physician and gastroenterologist, University Hospital of North Durham:: Jitendra Singh, consultant gastroenterologist and general physician, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead:: Peter Trewby, consultant physician, County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust:: Phil Matthews, consultant gastroenterologist, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:: Diamond Joy, consultant gastroenterologist, The James Cook University Hospital:: Harriet Mitchison, consultant endoscopy, City Hospitals Sunderland:: Paul Cann, consultant gastroenterologist, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough:: David Hobday, consultant gastroenterologist, City Hospitals Sunderland:: Anjan Dhar, consultant gastroenterologist, University Hospital of North Durham:: Christopher Haigh, consultant gastroenterologist, Wansbeck Hospital:: Richard Thomas, consultant physician, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust:: Matt Rutter consultant gastroenterologist University Hospital of North Tees:: Mumtaz Hayat, consultant gastroenterologist and physician, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust:: Margaret Bassendine, professor of hepatology at Newcastle University and hon consultant hepatologist Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne:: David Oliver, consultant gastroenterologist, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough:: Arvind Ramadas, consultant gastroenterologist, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough:: Jo Topping, consultant gastroenterologist, South Tyneside District Hospital:: Anand Reddy, consultant physician and gastroenterologist, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead:: Babur Javaid, consultant gastroenterologist, North Cumbria University Hospitals:: Anil Bhagwat, consultant, Hexham General Hospital:: Saksena Sushma, consultant physician and hepatologist, University Hospital North Durham

Thousands of children wrongly labelled allergic to foods by online tests

Children are wrongly being diagnosed with food allergies due to unreliable tests, experts claim (file photo)

Hundreds of thousands of children are wrongly being diagnosed with food allergies due to unreliable tests, experts have warned.

Youngsters are being put on unnecessary and restrictive diets, avoiding products containing egg, milk, fish and wheat, which can leave them malnourished.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence says GPs are often too quick to dismiss parents’ concerns over their child’s runny nose or tummy ache – which can be symptomatic of an allergy.

Unsure what to do, many parents then turn to so-called ‘alternative allergy tests’ sold by private firms on the internet.

But these can provide inaccurate conclusions and have ‘dangerous’ consequences for children’s health.

The draft guidelines from NICE will say that many of the techniques used by these firms – which include analysing strands of hair to measure someone’s electrical activity or muscle strength when they are close to an allergen – misdiagnose allergies and intolerances in children when there is very little wrong.

NICE wants GPs to be more vigilant about investigating common ailments in children which could be linked to an allergy and, if necessary, refer them to a proper clinic rather than risking parents turning to private firms.

Experts who helped draw up the guidelines say children can become malnourished if they are put on strict diets which avoid vital nutrients.

Dr Adam Fox, a consultant paediatric allergist at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, who helped draw up the recommendations, said: ‘The NICE guidelines will say that there is no evidence for such approaches – and we think that is very helpful because parents are wasting time and money on them.

‘They also often end up putting their children on very extensive restriction diets, which can leave them malnourished.’

Children are being put on unnecessary, restrictive diets avoiding products containing egg, milk and wheat which can leave them malnourished (file photo)

He added that the techniques often inaccurately tell people ‘GPs should step in much sooner’ they are suffering intolerance to certain types of food such as wheat and dairy which cause them to cut vital nutrients from their diets.

‘We are saying GPs should step in much sooner.’

In particular, parents are using the alternative methods to check for delayed allergic reactions which take a long time to diagnose on the NHS.

This is where a rash, tummy upset or headache develops several hours after eating the allergen food.

Often patients will have to eliminate certain foods one by one, recording symptoms until they can work out which one is causing the problem. This can take weeks.

The NICE guidelines will say that when doctors suspect a child has suffered an allergic reaction to food – such as coming out in hives after eating peanuts – they should carry out blood tests or skin prick tests, with suspected allergens placed on the skin, to confirm the diagnosis.

They will also be advised to investigate the possibility that children are suffering from delayed allergic reactions if they come in with unexplained complaints such as eczema, sneezing, diar rhoea or sickness.

GPs will also be told to take detailed family histories to try to determine whether a food allergy has been passed down genetically.


Mystery of why asthma admissions for children peak in September

Children with asthma are most likely to be admitted to hospital in September than any other time of the year.

Hospital admissions for under-16s in England were 58 per cent higher during that month last year, according to data from the NHS Information Centre.

The same phenomenon occurred the previous September, when admission rates were more than double the monthly average for the year.

Peak: Figures released today show children with asthma are more likely to be admitted to hospital in September than any other month (posed)

Experts have called for further investigation into the seasonal surge, but say it could be linked to poorer control of the condition during the summer holidays combined with stress and exposure to infections when children return to school.

An analysis of data for 12 months from May 2009 to April 2010 found each month, on average, there were 2,320 hospital admissions for asthma among children under the age of 16.

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But in September 2009 there were 3,670 admissions among under-16s – a 58 per cent rise. Of these, 2,090 were for children aged five and under. For the 12 months from May 2008 to April 2009, the average under-16 admission figure was 2,380.

In September 2008 the figure was 4,820 (103 per cent higher), of which 2,780 cases were for children aged five and under.

Hospital admissions among older age groups do not follow the same pattern.

Asthmatics are less likely to be admitted when they are older, with admission rates among more senior age groups peaking in October or December.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: ‘Although provisional, these figures provide a useful insight at a national level into the admissions passing through our hospital doors in England and also into possible shifts in trend during the different seasons.

‘These figures appear to highlight September as a hotspot for asthma admissions among our very young children, which may prompt possible investigation as to why this may be.’

Experts at the Asthma UK charity said children were at extra risk at the start of the school year for a number of reasons, but action by parents and teachers can prevent some of the problems.

Head nurse Erica Evans said: ‘We know that children’s admissions for asthma peak in September, which coincides with the start of the new school year.

'There are a number of possible factors, including the spreading of colds and viruses, the potential stresses that a new school term can bring and children not taking their regular preventer medicine over the summer holidays.

‘It’s essential that parents and school staff work together during the school year to make sure that asthma is well managed and to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions for the condition.’

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We are determined to improve patient outcomes in asthma, as with all other areas of NHS care.

‘This includes helping commissioners understand what a good quality service looks like, ensuring information on asthma is accurate, and testing different models of care for people with asthma.’

Allergic school boy,7, suffers two heart attacks after teacher hands him chocolate nut in class,

'My son could have died', says horrified mother

A schoolboy with a nut allergy suffered two heart attacks after a teacher apparently handed him a chocolate with a whole hazelnut inside it.

Rehan Butt, seven, had a massive allergic reaction and had to be rushed to hospital where he was hooked up to a ventilator to help him breathe.

His family said staff at the Bradford school had been aware of the boy's allergy since he started there three years ago.

It appears the youngster was handed the treat by a substitute teacher but his mother said there was a board in class with pictures of which children were allergic to what.

Rehan Butt, seven, had a massive allergic reaction after biting into the chocolate and had to be rushed to hospital where he was hooked up to a ventilator to help him breathe

Rehan was handed the Quality Street chocolate with a hazelnut in it at the end of the school day on Tuesday and began eating it.

His mother then saw him spit it out at the school gate and a few minutes later noticed his complexion change and face swell.

She immediately gave him a shot from an EpiPen - a boost of adrenaline - which he carried on him. But it failed to make an immediate impact, and an ambulance was called to the school.

Rehan's mother saw him spit the chocolate out at the school gate and a few minutes later noticed his complexion change and face swell

It is thought a substitute teacher at St Matthew's C of E Primary School in Bradford was handing out chocolates because it was a child's birthday and handed Rehan the 'Big Purple One' from a selection box.

His mother, Razwana Butt, 28, said: 'The chocolate was given to him but he didn't tell me until he had eaten it. When I saw him he had the purple wrapper and then his eyes started to swell up about 10 minutes later. 

'He was saying he was finding it difficult to breathe and he was panicking. We called an ambulance and luckily it arrived really quickly.

'They gave him adrenaline and oxygen and then we got to Bradford Royal Infirmary.

'When we got to the hospital he went into cardiac arrest and his heart stopped twice. Luckily, he came round after CPR.

'We really want to raise awareness of how dangerous giving a child the wrong  thing can be, because it could have been much worse, Rehan could have died.'

The boy's aunt Farzana Hussain, 26, said: 'We have been really let down by the school and it's not a small thing that has happened here.

'Rehan has a serious allergy, he suffered two cardiac arrests and one respiratory arrest because he ate that sweet. He couldn't breathe on his own and he had to be hooked up to a ventilator.

It is thought chocolates were handed out because it was a child's birthday and Rehan was handed the 'big purple one' from a Quality Street selection box

'He has been going to that school for three years and everyone there knows about his allergies and how serious they are. I just can't believe that someone would give him a chocolate with a nut in.

'By the time he had bitten into it and realised what had happened it was too late.'

Rehan was transferred from Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) to the Intensive Care Unit at Leeds General Infirmary before being taken back to BRI at about 5pm on Wednesday afternoon, where he is still staying.

Mrs Butt, a civil servant, said: 'I don't know how this could have happened, in the  school's classroom they have an allergy board which has each child's picture on it and what they are allergic to.

'My sister always reminds people that he is allergic to nuts at birthday parties and all the children in his class know he is allergic to them.

'I went to see the head teacher to tell them how badly it had affected Rehan. He apologised to me.

'Luckily Rehan is off the ventilator now but he is very disorientated. We have been talking to him about his friends from school and he doesn't remember them.

'After one of his family came to see him, we were talking to him about it later and he couldn't remember the visit.'

Enlarge   Rehan suffered a severe allergic reaction outside the gates of St Mathews C of E primary School in Bradford

She added: 'We were told that Rehan could have suffered brain damage if the ambulance hadn't got there so quickly and given him oxygen. He is much better now and is able to sit up in bed.'

Head teacher Bob Curran said in a statement: 'We can assure Rehan's family that  there will be a full investigation into the incident.

'We wish Rehan and his family all the best for his recovery.'



Allergies: Woman's soulmate brought her out in itchy eczema... until he proposed

When Charlotte Davies met her future husband there was an instant attraction.

Unfortunately for her, there was also an instant reaction – on her skin. Within weeks of meeting her soulmate, her eyelids erupted with eczema and her eyes had swelled to the size of golf balls. 

Experts concluded that the euphoria she felt when she was with boyfriend, accountant Dean Strohm, was being played out on her skin.

She was allergic to love. Even more astonishing was that it disappeared after her wedding day.

The university administrator met Dean three years ago in a bar in Colchester, Essex, and the pair quickly became inseparable.

But a month into their relationship Charlotte, 32, awoke to find she could hardly open her eyes.

She said: ‘I knew Dean was ‘The One’ from the moment we met.

‘I could have described myself as a bit of a Bridget Jones before we met. I was always looking for love, but was hopeless at finding a decent man.

‘When I found him I was deliriously happy but neither of us could fathom out why, when I was so in love, my skin had reacted in such an awful way.’

She added: ‘Dean told me he’d love me with red panda eyes or not, but I felt mortified. It was the time when you most want to look your best and I looked awful.’

Doctors struggled to explain the sudden reaction and it was a homeopath who eventually diagnosed the cause as love.

Eczema is often caused by stress. In Charlotte's case her red eyes were caused by love

‘He told me that it was common for eczema to be effected by emotions, but typically due to stress, trauma or unhappiness. This was the first time they had ever heard of someone being allergic to love’, she said.

‘I felt like my body was putting Dean to the test, because even though my heart told me he was The One, it was as if my body wanted to see if he really was a good as he seemed.

‘If he loved me after my eyes had turned into a bright red tomatoes literally within days of meeting him, then I’d know his love was true.’

Reader I married him: Charlotte said her symptoms disappeared after Dean proposed

The eczema continued for the next two years and flared up whenever she was particularly emotional.

‘When Dean asked me to marry him my eyes swelled up again because I was so ridiculously happy’, she said.

Charlotte tried a concoction of steroids, creams, and alternative medicines, to no avail. Eventually she chanced upon Skin Shop’s Dry Eye Gel, a product she describes as ‘miraculous’ at treating the symptoms.

But it was a much less conventional treatment that helped her to banish the ezcema for good.

She said: ‘In December we got married and the eczema started to get a lot better. Perhaps my hormones calmed down and I just felt more relaxed once we were married, but it certainly seems to have cured me.’

Dr Ed Seaton, consultant dermatologist at the Royal Free Hospital, London, said: 'There is a close relationship between the skin and the psyche.

'Emotional stress and big changes in your life can affect the levels of steroid hormones in the body and make people more susceptible to eczema and psoriasis.

'However, I have never come across a case of love triggering eczema. That would be very unusual.'

Dry Eye Gel costs £8.99 for 30ml and is available from www.skinshop.co.uk or call: 0844 700 9975



Allergic mother-to-be lives on Big Macs in pregnancy and gives birth to a 10lb 2oz whopper

When Suzanne Franklin fell pregnant, she was at a loss as to how she would eat for two.

The 23-year-old had suffered from extreme food allergies for year from eggs to dairy and fruit and vegetables. 

Burger baby: Suzanne Franklin and baby son Harry with a Big Mac, which helped sustain both of them during Suzanne's pregnancy

Doctors warned her that pregnancy would make the symptoms worse but that antihistamines could harm her baby.

But Ms Franklin knew she wasn’t allergic to McDonald’s burgers - so she ate a Big Mac burger everyday throughout her pregnancy.

Any worries about her unusual diet affecting her baby’s growth were unfounded - as she has given birth to her own 10Ib 2oz whopper.

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Miss Franklin said: ‘All those burgers definitely didn’t do him any harm. It was the only thing I could eat safely during my pregnancy, so I just lived on them.

‘When Harry was born and the doctors told me that he weighed over 10Ib’s I just couldn’t believe it.

‘I was worried that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients for me and the baby - but Harry definitely proved that wrong.

‘The doctor who scanned me at 20 weeks told me that I must be doing something right as he was so big and healthy - but I never expected him to be that big and neither did they. The doctors expected him to be around 8Ibs.’

Miss Franklin, who lives with partner Paul Wilson, 27, a dental technician, in Dudley, West Midlands, has suffered from extreme food allergies since she was two-years-old.

She said: ‘I ate a chocolate covered peanut when I was two years old and it sent my body into anaphylactic shock and I had to be rushed straight to hospital. Doctors told my parents I was lucky to be alive.’

What a whopper! Harry weighed 10lb and 2oz at birth

Miss Franklin was diagnosed with a severe nut allergy and she had to carry an adrenaline pen around with her at all times.

But it wasn’t until she was 15 that her allergies became more extreme. She ate a kiwi fruit and her throat closed up, leaving her unable to breathe.

She said: ‘I couldn’t breathe, but luckily mum could see what was happening to me and she called an ambulance straight away.

‘But then a week later the same thing happened when I was eating a strawberry and tests showed that I was allergic to eggs, tea, alcohol, rice, oils, fish, and all fruit and vegetables.

‘I became absolutely terrified of eating, as I just seemed to be allergic to everything. For weeks I just lived on bread and water, and I dropped two stone in weight.’

But Miss Franklin discovered she could eat Big Mac burgers - without cheese or salad, so she began to eat them most days.

She was so allergic to other foods that she had to cook dinner separately from her partner and store all her food in airtight containers in the fridge.

Miss Franklin, who is studying interior design and architecture, said: ‘I just can’t risk it. If someone so much as touches a lettuce and handles my food, it can trigger a life threatening reaction.’

In March last year Miss Franklin discovered she was pregnant and doctors warned her that pregnancy could make her allergies worse.

She said: ‘My diet was limited enough, but now I was eating for two, so I had to make sure I didn’t lose any weight.

‘I couldn’t take antihistamine medication throughout the pregnancy, so I had just had to hope that I wouldn’t suffer an attack.’

So Miss Franklin turned to the one food that she knew that she could eat safely - Big Mac burgers.

She said: ‘I was just desperate to keep eating so that the baby could grow, so I just forced down burger after burger each day.

‘Paul would eat a salad, and I would just look on enviously. The lack of nutrients in my diet meant that I picked up one cold after another, but I was advised not to take any multivitamins in case they triggered an allergic reaction too.

‘I wondered if eating so many burgers would affect the baby, but luckily my 20 week scan showed that the baby was developing fine. It was such a relief.’

By the time Miss Franklin went into labour on Christmas Day, she had gained four stone.

She said: ‘My bump had just kept growing and growing - Paul kept joking that it was all the Big Mac’s I was eating.’

Harry was born at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, weighing a whopping 10Ib2.

Miss Franklin added: ‘I just couldn’t believe it when the doctors told me what he weighed.’

Baby Harry is now three months old - and he has shown signs of inheriting Miss Franklin’s allergies too. He is already allergic to seven different types of milk.

She said: ‘I had hoped that Harry wouldn’t be allergic to all the foods that I am, but it looks as though he may have inherited some of them. But at least he won’t be allergic to burgers.'

 


Giving small doses of egg to children 'can cure allergy'

Quiche, omelettes and pasta could be back on the menu for children with egg allergies, after scientists developed an effective exposure therapy.

In tests, more than a quarter of youngsters fed small amounts of egg lost the allergy altogether, while others showed higher tolerance to exposure to eggs.

The findings add weight to the concept of oral immunotherapy - where the immune system is taught to tolerate something with small but increasingly growing exposures.

A quarter of particpants were able to eat eggs after the treatment

Simliar studies have suggested the same approach could be useful in milk and peanut allergies.

But researchers from the John Hopkins Children's Center warn that although showing promising results, oral immunotherapy is still in its infancy and should not be attempted outside strictly controlled research conditions.

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For the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 35 of 40 children treated with egg immunotherapy experienced improvement.

Five of the 40 patients dropped out of the study, four of them due to allergic reactions related to treatment.

Of the remainder, eleven experienced complete long-term elimination of egg-related allergic reactions, the most sought-after therapeutic outcome.

The rest of the children were able to tolerate higher doses of egg with only mild or no symptoms, but lost some of their tolerance after discontinuing treatment.

But researchers say a higher threshold of tolerance is an important therapeutic marker because it can protect against serious allergic reactions from accidental or incidental exposures and give patients and parents peace of mind at restaurants or parties where food control is difficult.

Dr Robert Wood said: 'More than a quarter of the children in our study lost their egg allergies altogether, but we also saw dramatic improvements in those who didn't, which in and of itself is an important therapeutic achievement.

'These children went from having serious allergic reactions after a single bite of an egg-containing cookie to consuming eggs with minimal or no symptoms.'

Home allergy tests 'dangerous' waste of money that delay treatment

Parents are wasting money and risking their children’s health by buying £60 allergy tests, experts warn today.

There is no scientific basis for such alternative tests, which can delay proper diagnosis and may lead to malnutrition in children wrongly put on restrictive diets, it is claimed.

The warning comes as the NHS issues its first guidelines to help GPs identify and treat food allergies in children more quickly.

It can take months and even years for allergies to be suspected and families referred to hospital specialists, who may have long waiting lists.

Desperate parents are often forced to seek alternative and complementary testing as a result, said Dr Adam Fox, a consultant in paediatric allergy at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Dr Fox, who worked on the guidelines, said a study in 2006 found 40 per cent of families seen in specialist clinics had used alternative allergy tests.

‘It’s not at all unusual that parents will come in with their printout of things [foods] they have been told to exclude based on completely invalidated types of testing,’ he added. ‘The more slick the website, the more they are likely to believe it.’

‘Useless’ tests available online or at High Street shops hampered the efforts of NHS doctors to sort out allergy problems, he added.

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Dr Fox said: ‘Many parents often turn to alternative methods to help diagnose their child, but there is little evidence base for these approaches.

‘Parents often end up putting their children on very extensive restriction diets following the inaccurate diagnosis, which can leave them malnourished, as well as wasting time and money.’

Enlarge   A warning has been issued against using the Vega tester (pictured) test, kinesiology and hair analysis for allergy testing

The guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence warn against using the Vega test, kinesiology and hair analysis. The tests cost around £60 online and more on the High Street, while a Which? survey two years ago found some costing £275.

Dr Fox said skin prick testing and the IgE blood test on the NHS were medically proven, and should not be confused with some IgG food intolerance and home testing kits.

The guidelines says parents paying for allergy testing should ensure they are seeing a reputable, trained specialist. The charity Allergy UK has a nationwide list.

Dr Fox said it was unclear why allergies were rising, with theories ranging from caesarean births to children not being exposed to enough germs to kickstart their immune systems. One in 20 children has a food allergy, with one in 50 allergic to nuts.

Dr Joanne Walsh, a GP who worked on the guidelines, said all children suffer a bit of reflux, colic or occasional vomiting, but as many as one in three parents now discussed allergy in the first few weeks of life.

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Allergy tests not recommended by Nice

IgG BLOOD TESTS

A blood sample taken using a surgical pin and vial is posted off for analysis.

Companies using this test claim raised levels of IgG (Immunoglobulin G) anibodies within blood in relation to a particular food suggest allergy.

IgG antibodies are commonly found in healthy people and show only that the food itself has been eaten.

Cost: From £99 depending on how many foods are tested for.

VEGA TESTING

The person being tested holds a metal probe connected to a computer, while another probe is placed on acupressure points on other hand to create an electric circuit.

Vials containing 'essences' of different foods are placed in the machine, or a computer programme is used, with a reduction in the electric current meaning an allergy to the food tested.

Independent experts say clinical studies have repeatedly shown it is ineffective in detecting intolerances.

Cost: £60 plus

HAIR ANALYSIS

A few strands of hair are sent by post for analysis.

Practitioners claim the sample can 'diagnose' intolerances by testing the 'vibrational energy pattern' of the hair, or DNA at the root, but experts say there is no evidence to show it works in food allergy.

Cost: £50 plus.

KINESIOLOGY The person being tested lies down either touching or close to vials containing 'food extracts'.

The practitioner applies pressure on legs or arms to test resistance, claiming that muscle weakness means the food being tested is interfering with the body, but Nice says there is 'little evidence base'.

Cost: £50 plus


Home allergy tests 'dangerous' waste of money that delay treatment

Parents are wasting money and risking their children’s health by buying £60 allergy tests, experts warn today.

There is no scientific basis for such alternative tests, which can delay proper diagnosis and may lead to malnutrition in children wrongly put on restrictive diets, it is claimed.

The warning comes as the NHS issues its first guidelines to help GPs identify and treat food allergies in children more quickly.

It can take months and even years for allergies to be suspected and families referred to hospital specialists, who may have long waiting lists.

Desperate parents are often forced to seek alternative and complementary testing as a result, said Dr Adam Fox, a consultant in paediatric allergy at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Dr Fox, who worked on the guidelines, said a study in 2006 found 40 per cent of families seen in specialist clinics had used alternative allergy tests.

‘It’s not at all unusual that parents will come in with their printout of things [foods] they have been told to exclude based on completely invalidated types of testing,’ he added. ‘The more slick the website, the more they are likely to believe it.’

‘Useless’ tests available online or at High Street shops hampered the efforts of NHS doctors to sort out allergy problems, he added.

  More... Osteoporosis drugs 'raise the risk of thigh fractures' warn researchers How a daily tipple could help topple risk of heart disease Organic produce 'not as good for your health': Vegetables grown with pesticides contain MORE vitamins

Dr Fox said: ‘Many parents often turn to alternative methods to help diagnose their child, but there is little evidence base for these approaches.

‘Parents often end up putting their children on very extensive restriction diets following the inaccurate diagnosis, which can leave them malnourished, as well as wasting time and money.’

Enlarge   A warning has been issued against using the Vega tester (pictured) test, kinesiology and hair analysis for allergy testing

The guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence warn against using the Vega test, kinesiology and hair analysis. The tests cost around £60 online and more on the High Street, while a Which? survey two years ago found some costing £275.

Dr Fox said skin prick testing and the IgE blood test on the NHS were medically proven, and should not be confused with some IgG food intolerance and home testing kits.

The guidelines says parents paying for allergy testing should ensure they are seeing a reputable, trained specialist. The charity Allergy UK has a nationwide list.

Dr Fox said it was unclear why allergies were rising, with theories ranging from caesarean births to children not being exposed to enough germs to kickstart their immune systems. One in 20 children has a food allergy, with one in 50 allergic to nuts.

Dr Joanne Walsh, a GP who worked on the guidelines, said all children suffer a bit of reflux, colic or occasional vomiting, but as many as one in three parents now discussed allergy in the first few weeks of life.

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Allergy tests not recommended by Nice

IgG BLOOD TESTS

A blood sample taken using a surgical pin and vial is posted off for analysis.

Companies using this test claim raised levels of IgG (Immunoglobulin G) anibodies within blood in relation to a particular food suggest allergy.

IgG antibodies are commonly found in healthy people and show only that the food itself has been eaten.

Cost: From £99 depending on how many foods are tested for.

VEGA TESTING

The person being tested holds a metal probe connected to a computer, while another probe is placed on acupressure points on other hand to create an electric circuit.

Vials containing 'essences' of different foods are placed in the machine, or a computer programme is used, with a reduction in the electric current meaning an allergy to the food tested.

Independent experts say clinical studies have repeatedly shown it is ineffective in detecting intolerances.

Cost: £60 plus

HAIR ANALYSIS

A few strands of hair are sent by post for analysis.

Practitioners claim the sample can 'diagnose' intolerances by testing the 'vibrational energy pattern' of the hair, or DNA at the root, but experts say there is no evidence to show it works in food allergy.

Cost: £50 plus.

KINESIOLOGY The person being tested lies down either touching or close to vials containing 'food extracts'.

The practitioner applies pressure on legs or arms to test resistance, claiming that muscle weakness means the food being tested is interfering with the body, but Nice says there is 'little evidence base'.

Cost: £50 plus


Marian Adejokun nearly dies from rare allergic reaction to eye drops

A teenager nearly died when her skin peeled off after she had a one in a million allergic reaction... to eye drops.

Marian Adejokun, 19, from Croydon, was left covered in blisters from head to toe and lost layers of her skin after using a small dose of over the counter medicine Optrex.

She spent more than three weeks in intensive care at the Royal London Hospital where baffled doctors diagnosed her with life threatening medical condition Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Marian Adejokun suffered a severe reaction to eye drops, which left her in intensive care for three weeks. She still has to be fed through a tube in her throat

Marian said: 'Everywhere was swollen. My nose was huge and my eyes were so red you could take a spoon and scrape out the blood.'

Marian was prescribed the Optrex eyedrops on January 11 after complaining of an itchy eye.

Her mother Remi applied them before she went to bed but within hours red lumps had appeared all over her body and she was quickly rushed to hospital.

WHAT IS STEVENS JOHNSON SYNDROME?

Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a severe adverse reaction to a medication. It was named after two U.S paediatricians who described it in 1922.

It affects around two people per million and is more common among women.

Symptoms include skin rashes, blisters in the mouth, ears and nose and swelling of the eyelids.

If left untreated the condition can result in death. Possible complications include permanent blindness and lung damage.

Once diagnosed doctors will immediately stop the patient taking the offending drug.

Treatment includes IV fluids and high calorie formulas  to promote healing. Antibiotics are given when necessary to prevent secondary infections such as sepsis. Pain medications such as morphine can make the patient more comfortable.

Ms Adejokun said: 'Her face was full of blisters, her lips were very swollen and the doctors still didn't know what was going on.

'I was crazy, beyond the worried stage and near to losing my mind. After a week I thought there was no hope but then as she lay on the bed, unable to talk, I said "Marian, you've just made it to university, that's your dream" and she moved her toe.

'Realising she could hear me I started to sing our favourite songs to her. Instead of crying all the time I went to the intensive care unit and danced.'

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Student Marian lost so must skin she had to be wrapped in a foil sheet and still has to be fed through a hole in her throat.

Specialist skin experts told Ms Adejokun did not believe her daughter would survive.

She said: 'There were so many blisters on Marian and her skin was just tearing off.

'I saw death knocking at my daughter's door, all because of an eye drop.'

Marian was finally removed from the intensive care unit on February 8. She was allowed home on February 19th and now faces months of hourly moisturising treatment before her skin will fully heal.

But determined Marian, who was born with a hole in her heart and recently had back surgery to cure osteosclerosis, never stopped believing she would pull through.

Doctors have hailed her recovery as a "miracle."

She said: 'When I was in the intensive care unit, crying in pain, all I thought of was coming home.

'I've overcome a lot of in my life. Losing my skin because of an eye drop is just another obstacle I've made it through.'

Marian's rare disease is triggered by severe allergic reactions to medication and an immune system disorder.


Allergies: Gene defect 'triples risk of peanut allergy in children'

Scientists have found a gene defect which can triple the risk of a child developing a peanut allergy.

It could lead to new treatments for the most common cause of death from food aversions.

An international team, led by researchers at the University of Dundee, studied defects in the Filaggrin protein, which are carried by more than 10 per cent of people.

Previous studies showed this defect caused a range of other allergic conditions including eczema and asthma.

Dr Sara Brown, of Dundee, said: 'It was a logical next step to investigate whether Filaggrin may also be a cause of peanut allergy, since a child may develop all three of these diseases together.

'Allergic conditions often run in families, which tells us that inherited genetic factors are important. In addition to that, changes in the environment and our exposure to peanuts are thought to have been responsible for the recent increase in peanut allergy seen in the Western world in particular.

'Now, for the first time, we have a genetic change that can be firmly linked to peanut allergy.'

The Filaggrin gene helps build barriers in the skin to protect the body against irritants and allergens.

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Changes in the gene decrease the effectiveness of this barrier, allowing substances to enter the body and leading to a range of allergies.

The study found that one in five of all peanut allergy sufferers has a Filaggrin defect. Those with the defect can be three times more likely to suffer peanut allergy than people with normal Filaggrin.

The collaboration looked at 1,300 people in four different population groups in Canada, England, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Scientists said it was the first time that any genetic association with peanut allergy has been demonstrated in more than one population, making it more likely to be a 'genuine risk factor'.

Professor Irwin McLean, one of the world's leading authorities on Filaggrin who is also based at Dundee, said: 'The Filaggrin defect is not the cause of peanut allergy but we have established it as a factor in many cases. We don't yet know enough about the causes of peanut allergy but this is an important step forward.'

The findings are published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Allergies: Young mother must wrap up all year round because she is allergic to the COLD

We all look forward to the time we can leave our coats at home, but one young mother from Portsmouth has to wrap up warm even in summer.

Chelsea White, 19, is allergic to the cold and breaks out in itchy, blotchy hives if her skin is exposed to the slightest breeze.

The mother-of-one always wears gloves when she is outside and avoids downing chilled drinks and snacks that could cool her body temperature.

Chelsea said: 'When the rash breaks out, I look like a tomato. My arms and legs flare up into really itchy hives, and even after all these years, it's embarrassing.

'I was bullied a lot at school because I was always the one wearing a hat, scarf and gloves when all my friends were in summer dresses.

'I know what brings on my reaction, but sometimes I just can't avoid it. If I'm out and it starts raining, my wet clothes make me cold and I flare up.

'I can try and take precautions like dressing in warm clothing, but if it's a windy day, I either have to hide away at home or just put up with it.

'Sometimes the rashes have been so itchy that I've scratched them until they bleed.'

The former supermarket-worker can't even take her baby daughter, Faye, to the swimming pool or the seaside as she can't go near cold water in case it triggers a reaction.

She said when she worked at Tesco her colleagues didn't believe her at first when she explained she couldn't work in the freezer aisles.

She always wore a fleece and woolen gloves as chilling cabinets and air conditioning will bring her out in an itchy rash. Even scanning frozen food through the tills left her scratching like mad.

Her unusual condition can usually be kept under control with a heavy dose of anti-histamine - but if Chelsea relies on the medicine too often, it will become less effective.

The full-time mother has to predict when she thinks she will need to take her medication - but an unexpected cold snap will leave her covered head-to-toe in hives.

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Chelsea's mother, Sarah Durow, 38, added: 'Chelsea came down with the condition very suddenly.

'It had never bothered her until one day when she was 11, and we were out shopping It was quite windy, and her face started to get red and blotchy.

'Within a few minutes, it was covered in big red bubbles.

Painful: Chelsea breaks out in red, itchy hives if she becomes chilly

'I rushed her to the nearest pharmacy, and was told she'd had an allergic reaction - but I'd never known her to be allergic to anything before.

'The doctor was completely baffled - it took months of tests before he finally managed to narrow the condition down to Cold Urticaria.

'Although Chelsea's condition wasn't life threatening, she was always breaking out in huge rashes.

'She couldn't go swimming, or play out when it was snowing - and we couldn't even let her have an ice cream in the summer, or she would start itching.

'As her mum, it was awful to watch her in so much pain.

'She has always just accepted her condition though - she never moans about it, she just gets on with life.'

Chelsea added: 'I don't know whether I will suffer with Cold Urticaria for the rest of my life or whether it is something I might hopefully grow out of.

'There are so few people who suffer from the condition that it's impossible to tell.

'I have learned to live with my allergy but my biggest fear is that it will be passed on to my daughter.

'For now, though, I will have to stick to keeping wrapped up warm.'

Muriel Summers, chair of Allergy UK, said: 'Cold Urticaria is a very rare condition, and so few people in the UK suffer from it that there is no national database indicating how many people are affected by it.

'We really don't understand the immune system well enough to have developed a cure for the condition.

'It is an awful condition and can cause the sufferer a lot of pain and distress.

'Often, allergies like this can disappear over time - hopefully this will be the case with Chelsea.'


First-borns more likely to suffer from allergies

Did you ever think your eldest sibling moaned more about falling ill than anyone else? It could be they had just cause.

Researchers have found first-born children are more likely to suffer from allergies than their younger brothers and sisters.

Japanese scientists found that multiple births build up the immune system in the womb which is transferred to babies.

It means second and third children are less likely to suffer from hay fever or develop food allergies.

Scientists surveyed the parents of 13,000 school children aged seven to 15, and asked them the order of their children and what allergies they had.

The findings showed four per cent of first-born children had rhinitis, conjunctivitis and food allergies compared with 3.5 per cent of second-born children.

Meanwhile, just 2.6 per cent of third-born children suffered from allergies.

Dr Takashi Kusunoki, who led the study for the Shiga Medical Center for Children and Kyoto University in Japan, said: 'It has been established that individuals with increased birth order have a smaller risk of allergy.  

'However, the significance of the effect may differ by allergic diseases.

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'Further evaluation should shed light on the role of pre and post-natal circumstances on the development of childhood allergy.'

Another reason why later children have a stronger immune system is known as the 'hygiene hypothesis'.

Scientists claim nervous first-time parents over-sterilize their homes for their first child while later siblings build up a stronger immune system after being exposed to more germs around the home.

Dr Frank Sulloway, an expert in the birth order from the University of California, said: 'When the first-born comes along, there are no younger siblings and they've got 100 per cent of parental attention.

'It seems to be reflected not only in IQ differences but first-borns essentially do things that the parents value.'

While food allergies and hay fever were dependent on birth order, scientists found all children had the same risk of developing asthma and eczema.

Histamine intolerance: Common allergy which causes bloating and eczema

Genny Masterman’s main memories of her childhood are of feeling constantly itchy, tired and bloated.

‘I had eczema on my legs, arms and all over my scalp ever since I was a little girl,’ says 35-year-old Genny.

‘It was not only desperately uncomfortable but looked terrible.

Genny Masterman suffered from eczema, bloating and gut pain. Three-and-a-half years ago, she discovered the culprit for her discomfort - histamine intolerance

'Then, in my teens, I started to develop a visibly bloated belly, even though I was otherwise perfectly healthy, taking regular exercise and eating well.

'I also occasionally had cramping and terrible diarrhoea.’

Doctors prescribed creams and oils for the eczema, assuring Genny she would grow out of her symptoms. The bloating and gut pain they put down to hormones; the diarrhoea was ‘just one of those things’.

But she continued to suffer from eczema, while the gut pain and diarrhoea worsened.

‘I would be rolling in pain on the bathroom floor every few months,’ says Genny, a freelance TV producer from Cheshire.

‘Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I became solitary and depressed. I thought perhaps it was psychosomatic, and this was just my lot for the rest of my life.’

Then, three-and-a-half years ago, Genny discovered the culprit for her discomfort.

She has histamine intolerance, a condition thought to affect 600,000 Britons — although the number could be even higher since many patients are misdiagnosed for years.

‘Histamine is produced by cells in the body when it is undergoing an allergic reaction and it can also be released during an infection,’ says Jonathan Brostoff, Professor Emeritus of allergy and environmental health at King’s College, London.

‘If the immune system detects something harmful — such as a virus or bacteria — histamine increases blood flow to the affected area.’

'Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I became solitary and depressed,' said Genny

While we all familiar with the body producing histamine as a reaction to hayfever, histamine intolerance refers to histamine that enters the body through certain foods. And because it’s ingested and goes through the gut, it produces a different reaction.

‘Usually a digestive enzyme in the gut, diamine oxidase, breaks down histamine absorbed through foods,’ says Professor Brostoff says.

‘However, when levels of this enzyme are low, eating some foods leads to a build-up of histamine, producing a wide range of symptoms such as hives, itching, eczema, tummy pain, diarrhoea, rashes and headaches.’

Foods with high-levels of histamine include red wine and beer, cheese, yeast, shellfish, some fruits and vegetables, most fish, chocolate and cured meats such as salami.

Experts believe there may be a genetic link to the condition. Around 80  per cent of those affected appear to be women, most being diagnosed in their 40s, which experts attribute to years of misdiagnosis or simply putting up with the condition.

‘Lack of awareness and the eclectic nature of the symptoms make diagnosis a real problem,’ says Lindsey McManus, of the charity Allergy UK.

Many doctors simply treat what’s in front of them, such as the eczema, headache or diarrhoea, she adds.

Even if a food allergy is suspected, standard allergy tests — where small amounts of known allergens are placed on the skin to see if they cause a reaction — will come up negative, as histamine intolerance does not involve an over-reaction of the immune system.

Histamine intolerance is also often wrongly diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome, explains Ms McManus.

‘There is a blood test to measure levels of diamine oxidase, but this is far more commonly available on the continent, than in the UK,’ she adds.

Indeed, Genny had several food allergy tests throughout her childhood, but they came up negative. She also saw doctors several times every year in her 20s, but they never found the problem.

Meanwhile, she continued eating the foods that contributed to her woes.

‘My mother always ensured I ate plenty of fish, vegetables and fruit,’ says Genny.

‘In my 20s I became a bit of a foodie — enjoying the odd glass of red wine or beer, and I loved cheese and cured meats. I had no idea all these foods were causing the problem. 

‘My friends were understanding, but I know it was tedious for them. I was in my 20s and should have been partying — but I’d duck out of anything social.

‘I cannot remember feeling anything other than that I was running at 50 per cent. At this point food, bizarrely, became my sanctuary of a sort. At least if I was home on my own I could treat myself to a nice meal — but that was just making things worse.’

Foods with high-levels of histamine include red wine (left) and beer, cheese (right), yeast, shellfish, some fruits and vegetables, most fish and chocolate

Then, in June 2007, when Genny was working on a BBC documentary in Austria, she had a particularly bad episode of diarrhoea.

‘I managed to crawl into work, but I was rushing to the loo up to ten times a day,’ says Genny.

‘I just had to go to the doctor.’

‘I was given rehydration salts to replenish my fluids and told to eat plain food such as rice and chicken. But this time the doctor suggested I have a blood test to check my diamine oxidase levels.

‘He said a new condition — histamine intolerance — was gaining a lot of interest and he thought that might be my problem.’

The results showed Genny’s blood contained 1.7 units of the enzyme per litre — normal levels should be 3.5 units per litre.

‘After years of suffering, the doctor had found the cause of all my problems. It was unbelievable,’ she says. But the smile was soon wiped off Genny’s face.

‘He passed me a leaflet giving a long list of foods to avoid. It was my worst nightmare.’

She returned to the UK and went to her doctor looking for help with the next steps. But it was here she hit a wall.

‘My GP was sympathetic but had never heard of the condition. He couldn’t find a dietitian who knew about it either. I had no choice but to read everything I could on the internet, then embark on a four-week elimination diet.

‘I cut out bread, cheese, tea — everything that contained histamine. That included sauces containing tomato, vinegar or soy. Even cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne pepper had to be avoided.’

She adds: ‘Everything needed to be cooked fresh, so I knew what was going into any meals. I’d spend hours in the supermarket reading the ingredients of foods.’

‘That first month, I holed myself up at home. But things started to improve. Six weeks after starting the diet, I felt really good. I had more energy, the depression I’d suffered for around seven years lifted, I didn’t itch any more and my skin improved.

‘The bloated stomach I’d had since I was a child disappeared. Thank God I’d been in Austria and seen the doctor I did — otherwise I could still be suffering.’ 

Lindsey McManus admits that finding a doctor who’ll even investigate a food intolerance isn’t easy. The area is not seen as a priority with regards to funding. As a result, many food intolerances are often not recognised.

‘If you think you may be histamine intolerant, you have to be persistent. Call our helpline or look at the website. Then go back to the GP and to push for a referral.’

While diamine oxidase tests are not available on the NHS, a company called The Doctor’s Laboratory can do them for £42. You’ll need a referral note from your doctor, who will then take a blood sample and send it off to them.

Three years on, Genny is so keen to raise awareness of the condition she’s written a book about her experience.

‘Life really is good for me now and I want to shout about it,’ she says.

‘With care, I’m able to enjoy a fairly normal diet.

‘Also, because my digestive system has been given a rest and isn’t continually bombarded by histamine-rich foods, I can enjoy the odd glass of wine or piece of cheese or salami without fear of such terrible side-effects.

‘This diet has completely changed my life and I hope my story will help others.’

What HIT Me? Living With Histamine Intolerance, by Genny Masterman (£13.99, Createspace publishing).

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