New iPhone app to aid people with severe allergies

Coventry University has joined forces with a leading UK healthcare charity, the Anaphylaxis Campaign, to develop a newly launched iPhone app which helps people affected by severe allergic reactions. 

Screenshot of the new Anaphylaxis iPhone app developed jointly by Coventry University’s Applied Research Centre in Health and Lifestyle Interventions and the Anaphylaxis Campaign.

Anaphylaxis is an extreme and severe allergic reaction. Common causes or ‘allergens’ include foods, insect bites/stings, penicillin and other drugs or injections. Symptoms, which are typically rapid in onset, can include bodily rashes, swelling of the throat and mouth, and a sudden feeling of weakness caused by a drop in blood pressure.

Anaphylaxis is potentially fatal and it is estimated that in the UK alone, it is a cause of 30,000 hospital admissions and 20 deaths every year, although this may be a substantial underestimate.

The ‘Anaphylaxis’ iPhone app, which was built by software developers from the Serious Games Institute at Coventry University, is designed to help people at risk of severe allergic reaction better manage their condition.

It allows users to create a personalised anaphylaxis management plan, containing details of their own specific allergens, the medications they require and emergency contact information.  It also allows users to set up reminders to check their medication levels and to locate nearby facilities and services like hospitals and pharmacies while they are out and about.

Significantly, the app also contains vital information about the emergency procedures to take in case of anaphylactic reaction. These include detailed instructions with video and voiceover on how to administer adrenaline using the special injectors prescribed to patients – an extremely useful function for the user as well as their friends, family or colleagues.

Dr Joanna Kosmala-Anderson from Coventry University’s Applied Research Centre in Health and Lifestyle Interventions said: “The ‘Anaphylaxis’ app is the first health related application developed by the Applied Research Centre in Health and Lifestyle Interventions.

“We worked closely with the Anaphylaxis Campaign to tailor the app specifically to meet the needs of people with severe allergies that may trigger anaphylaxis; providing them with an accessible and straightforward tool which will help them to deal with their condition.

“The app is the first on the market to feature a personalised anaphylaxis management plan that is readily available and easy to follow even for a person unfamiliar with emergency procedures.

“Most patients rely on paper copies of their personalised anaphylaxis management plan. Those can easily be lost or damaged and patients often fail to carry it with them at all times. Since the vast majority of adolescents and adults carry their phone on them at all times, the app takes care of that potential problem.

“More importantly, it ensures that users have constant access to crucial information about anaphylaxis management, including links to the Anaphylaxis Campaign’s website as well as their helpline number, and a list of potentially lifesaving procedures.”

Lynne Regent, Chief Executive Officer at the Anaphylaxis Campaign said:  “This app is a useful resource to assist people with managing their allergies.  We have been very involved with this exciting project from the start.  Utilising technology to help allergy patients, particularly teenagers who are learning to manage their allergies independently and are likely to carry smart phones, is great and something we actively encourage.”

The ‘Anaphylaxis’ app is free and can be downloaded at the App Store.

About Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is an extreme and severe allergic reaction. The whole body is affected, often within minutes of exposure to the substance which causes the allergic reaction (allergen) but sometimes after hours.

Common causes include foods such as peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts), sesame, fish, shellfish, dairy products and eggs. Non-food causes include wasp or bee stings, natural latex (rubber), penicillin or any other drug or injection. In some people, exercise can trigger a severe reaction – either on its own or in combination with other factors such as food or drugs (e.g. aspirin).

It is estimated that that 1 in 50 children in the UK suffers from a potentially life threatening food allergy. Every year about 4000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with anaphylaxis and 210, 000 people in the UK are prescribed epinephrine injectors.