2014 Press Releases

Anaphylaxis legislation under scrutiny

25 Jun 2014
Pictured: Dr Michael Byrne (screengrab via Oireachtas.ie)

Two UCC experts are calling on the government to fill the vacuum in legislation that is preventing a potentially life-saving anaphylaxis pilot initiative from getting underway. 

Dr Michael Byrne, Head of UCC’s Student Health Department and Professor Jonathan Hourihane, a leading allergy expert and Head of Department, Paediatrics & Child Health at UCC, have presented to the Joint Committee on Health and Children (Tuesday 24th June) on a proposal to establish a university-wide First-Responder Anaphylaxis Autoinjector Programme, on a pilot basis. Should the pilot be successful, it may well prove to be a life-saving blueprint that other higher education institutions and organisations could follow. Standing in the way however is a dearth of legislation.

Dr Byrne, who is responsible for helping protect the health, welfare, wellbeing and safety of over 16,000 students on the UCC campus daily, stressed to the Committee the urgency surrounding their call.

“To date we have had a number of notable successes in the health arena, especially in the areas of reducing alcohol-related harm, and in saving lives through the provision across our campus of Automatic External Defibrillators. It was in the context of having established a First Responder AED programme that I was approached by Professor Hourihane to seek to establish a comparable First-Responder Anaphylaxis Autoinjector Programme.

It is with some dismay therefore that we continue to be unable to roll-out this innovative and life-saving pilot project, for the want of appropriate legislative approval.”

Speed is the key when it comes to treating anaphylaxis. The pilot proposal conservatively estimates (incidence rate 2%, 16,000 students, 2,800 staff) that within the UCC community, approximately 320 students on campus have a known or suspected food allergy at any one time. This could translate into as many as 10 potential serious student allergic reactions each year with a further two staff members at risk as well.

Dr Byrne continued: “We very rarely see cases of near-death Anaphylaxis in the Student Health premises. We have done so however, and in my 8 years in UCC, we have definitely saved at least one life in our emergency treatment room through the administration of Adrenaline.

Therein lies the problem however, because there will be many more Anaphylaxis episodes which will occur when someone is not in our premises, it will occur when someone is in the library, on the running track or in one of our multiple eating places on-campus. It will occur at night, and at weekends. This is a high-risk vulnerable population. We believe we have an innovative safe and effective means of reducing that risk, and we ask the committee’s support to make this happen.”

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening, generalised or systemic hypersensitivity reaction. It can be caused by a very broad range of triggers, commonly including food, drugs and wasp or bee-venom. Adrenaline is the most important drug in its treatment and is most effective when administered early after the onset of the reaction.

A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here (200mb in size)

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