Written by Zak Marks, Co-Founder & CEO of Kitt Medical
14-year-old Ava was experiencing a severe allergic reaction – and she couldn’t find her adrenaline pens. Thankfully, one of our Anaphylaxis Kitts was installed nearby – and used for the first time ever.
When the incident report came through on our software, James, Jonny, Simon and I were all in shock. We launched Kitt Medical in February and had installed 200 Kitts in over 150 schools across the UK… but never knew when the day that one would actually be used would come.
I’ve lived with severe allergies for most of my life. I’ve had to carry adrenaline pens wherever I go. They expire, are easy to forget, and inconvenient to carry. So many allergy sufferers – almost 50% – don’t carry their own pens when they go out.
But it’s one thing to imagine, create and launch something that has the potential to save lives. It’s another thing for it to be actually used by a real-life person in a real life-threatening scenario.
Ava was attending a dance rehearsal at the Harris Rainham Academy in Essex, when she had a severe allergic reaction after eating a product from a local supermarket. Symptoms included body shaking, lips swelling, shallow breathing and feeling her throat itching and closing. In a state of panic, Ava forgot that she had an adrenaline pen in her school blazer – but remembered seeing the recently installed Anaphylaxis Kitt on a wall. Within minutes, an adrenaline pen was retrieved and administered by Ava’s dance teacher. Her symptoms eased before the Ambulance arrived.
Ava, who has been bullied for having severe peanut allergy, which is airborne, says:
“I do not know what would have happened without the ‘Anaphylaxis Kitt’ being there. I know that I would not have remembered my own adrenaline pen and my reaction would have just got a lot worse. My reaction was so awful, I could not have imagined it going on for much longer. I always carry my adrenaline pen with me, but it’s also a relief to know that Kitt Medical’s is also there if I ever need it.”
She adds: “There needs to be a lot more awareness around allergies, it’s a big deal. People have lost their lives because of allergies, and it annoys me that people do not take them seriously. Unless you have an allergy or know someone who does, you don’t really understand the impact it has. My daily life is so different from my friends who don’t have one.”
Hayley, Ava’s dance teacher, whose company works with almost 150 students aged 3-25, added:
“I am responsible for a lot of children so I have always done First Aid courses, but most courses today do not teach you how to use an adrenaline pen as part of their standard programme which I think is a shame.”
She added: “It all happened quite quickly. I heard someone say Ava was having an allergic reaction. She started shivering and was quite breathless. Someone ran to get the ‘Anaphylaxis Kitt’ on the wall. I read the instructions, administered the adrenaline pen and massaged it as I talked to her. A little while later she was feeling better. It was very important that Kitt Medical was there. The ambulance was quick, but they could not have been busier. There are so many things that meant we could now be telling a very different story.”
Now, leading medical professionals are joining Ava, her mum Sam Illingworth in calling for more allergy awareness, the risks around anaphylaxis and what steps must be taken to support millions of people affected by allergies across the UK.
Ava and I were recently interviewed to talk about the incident and raise awareness about allergic conditions by Vanessa Feltz on the TalkTv show (click to watch).
Sam, Ava’s mum, says:
“When I got a call saying an ambulance was on its way to help Ava, my heart just stopped. I am so grateful that the ‘Anaphylaxis Kitt’ was there at the time that Ava had her allergic reaction. I dread to think what would have happened without it, I have been telling everyone since that Kitt Medical needs to be in all schools, it really is like a defibrillator for allergies. It could help people who don’t have their adrenaline pen on them as they are having a reaction, or for people who do not know they have an allergy until they have a reaction.”
She adds: “There needs to be a lot more awareness of allergies and how dangerous they are. People need to know the signs of an allergic reaction and what needs to be done. I am sick of seeing things on social media, with people moaning about not being able to eat peanuts on a plane. They have no idea how dangerous allergies can be.”
Professor Adam Fox – a leading paediatric allergy consultant – says:
“With 20% of severe reactions in children happening at school improving awareness, staff training and access to potentially life-saving adrenaline pen kits is a key step. Whilst we have seen better awareness of allergies over the past few years sadly driven by tragic cases where deaths have occurred, there is still a huge way to go. We need improvements in the provision of specialist allergy services on the NHS, which are sadly lacking compared to other developed countries. We also need policy changes around food labelling, education, transport and beyond to make having severe allergies just that little bit easier.”
Adam joined me & Ava on the Trisha Goddard Talk TV show to speak more about the increasing rates of allergy across the UK (click to watch).
Throughout my life, my allergies have often been misunderstood, stigmatised, and even joked about, but anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, can cause serious harm or even death. There is at least one allergic child in every classroom across the UK. Schools are more allergy-aware than ever before and since 2017 can stock spare adrenaline pens, but they tell us that they still struggle to keep these medications accessible and in-date, as well as manage staff training and deal with incidents of anaphylaxis when they occur.
Our goal with our Anaphylaxis Kitts is to provide emergency medication in all public spaces and ensure that emergency allergy medication is accessible to anyone who needs it, when they need it most.
Speak with a member of the Kitt Medical team today to find out how they can support your school or workplace with a new standard for allergy care.