Allergies – Always a story
It won’t have escaped your attention that its hay fever season once more. With the joy of spring and summer to come for many of us this is tainted by the effects of allergies to pollen and pollution. It also ties in nicely with Allergy Awareness Week, which runs from 20-26th April, run by Allergy UK. The number of stories around allergy will undoubtedly increase with this awareness raising week.
During the last three weeks, we have already seen a raft of PR stories about allergies, in the Telegraph, The Daily Mail, BBC online etc. Stories focus on allergy and its effect on the population, even death in some cases and possible remedies and cures. The prospect of the peanut allergy cure is an exciting development. A particular story of interest in The Independent recently, focused on where allergies come from and why we get them. Professor Ruslan Medzhitov, an immunologist, suggests that they are not a biological mistake but an essential defence against poisons. His theory is that our immune system is rather like a pattern recognition system – detecting molecular signatures and that our body’s reaction to these allergen patterns was to expel them with all the unpleasantness that this causes (runny nose, wheezing, vomiting etc). Sometimes our bodies can over react dangerously, producing anaphalxysis. But he wants us to stop viewing allergies as a disease of which to be cured but as protection against toxins. Interesting and makes sense in many ways.
From a communications perspective, allergy can make the news in all sorts of ways, for example newly discovered allergens, cases of severe allergy in the population. Or new potential pharmacological cures for severe allergy or the next big over the counter remedy which could improve life during the allergy season. And what about food intolerance and products that boast they are ‘free from’ allergens such as gluten, peanuts or milk? The links to the ‘allergic’ story are endless and no wonder really, with an estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffering with at least one allergy (Mintel 2010), its big business. EU researchers estimate that in a few years time some 50% of us will be affected. Pass the tissues!
Allergy UK will be focussing this year on ‘Living in Fear’ the more severe end of the allergy spectrum. This campaign title is a headline in the making. And for those of us who suffer with allergy, for me that’s allergic rhinitis and peanut allergy, particularly in the case of peanuts you do ‘live in fear’. Perhaps I should offer myself as a case study, to help raise awareness.
-Written by Louise B.