A student from Burnley College has become one of the faces of a new campaign to teach children what life is like for someone with a potentially life-threatening food allergy.
A new resource for schools has been developed by Lancashire County Council to educate young people about how serious food allergies can be, what they can do to protect people with serious allergies, and how to help if someone has a bad reaction.
It follows concerns that a lack of understanding among their peers can lead to bullying, and young people with food allergies to take risks by eating things they know they shouldn't to avoid revealing their allergy.
The lesson pack includes a film called A Day in the Life of Chloe, featuring a real teenage girl who has a life threatening airborne strawberry allergy.
Chloe Fitzpatrick, a Burnley College student who was diagnosed with the allergy when she was two years old, produced a play performed last year with sisters Lucy, Sophie, and friend Sophie Guest, which formed the basis for the film.
Chloe recounts some of her experiences, including online bullying, and tells how she and other people with allergies would like to be treated.
The initiative is being backed by the national Anaphylaxis Campaign, and Gemma and Adam Lee from Oswaldtwistle, whose 15-year-old daughter Megan Lee died in 2017 from acute asthma due to a nut allergy.
A launch event was held on last week at the Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre and Theatre to promote the pack to schools. Speakers included Gemma and Adam, Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire County Council director of public health and wellbeing, and Rachel Wilcock, food safety officer for Lancashire County Council Trading Standards.
Food allergy is a serious and growing public health issue. There has been a dramatic increase in allergic diseases in recent years, with one in three of the UK population living with an allergy of some form.
County Coun. Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "Every school is likely to have at least one pupil who is severely food-allergic, and many schools will have more than one student who lives with a serious allergy.
"We've developed these resources to increase awareness of food allergy as a serious issue and help educate young people and adults about the potentially life threatening nature of the disease.
"It's important that people with allergies don’t feel embarrassed by their allergy, and that students knows what to do to make it as safe as possible for those with allergies and how to help them if they have a reaction."
Bullying has also been shown to increase risky behaviour among children with food allergies. A study of food allergic young people aged 13-21 found that 54% had purposely eaten potentially unsafe foods and 42% were willing to eat things that 'may contain' an allergen. Around 68% believed that educating their friends would make living with a food allergy easier.
In one instance of bullying in July 2017, a 13-year-old London boy with a milk allergy died following an incident where a classmate threw cheese at his neck.
County Coun. Turner added: "Our own research has found that young people are often worried about being seen to make a fuss about their allergies, and national reports have indicated incidences of bullying relating to allergies.
"We want to reach as many people as possible with the interesting and engaging resources we are launching today, and I'd encourage schools to use them. Our Trading Standards team will continue to work with district council Environmental Health teams to increase understanding of allergies, and ensure that all food businesses understand their responsibilities to provide safe food."