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Sunday 14 July 2013

Decluttering can't kill you - or can it?!

I consider myself extremely fortunate not to suffer with allergies, unlike several of my friends and friends of friends – some of whom dread going out to a restaurant as they can never be sure whether they’ll be served something which could potentially kill them! 

So on Friday 1st June I went with one of them - a food allergy consultant - to the first day of The Allergy & Free From Show in London, to help her promote her new business - Food Allergy Aware.  It's a training company which aims to educate and assist the catering industry to become food allergy aware, and support those affected by food allergies.

The other main reasons for attending the Allergy Show were to:
  • Attend workshops to learn some tips on things to look out for and precautions to take when decluttering and organising for people with allergies and Asthma.
  • Make contact with charities which offer allergy and asthma training and support - with a view to signing them up as apdo-uk charity partners in the future (I'm the Marketing & PR Officer for The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers UK - apdo-uk).
The first thing I discovered was that many airlines no longer serve peanuts as snacks on board their aircraft, as some people are so allergic to them that they only have to be in the same room to be affected! 

So whenever I take a snack to a client in future, I'll ensure it doesn't contain peanuts - just in case they were susceptible to peanut allergy.
Sue Kropf, an Asthma Nurse Specialist from the Asthma UK charity gave an excellent talk explaining about Asthma, which made me realise how aware of the risks that professional organisers have to be when working with Asthma sufferers, and the course of action to take in the event of an asthma attack, which could easily be triggered by things being moved around and disbursing dust into the air. 
The Asthma UK website has an excellent A-Z of Triggers which I urge all professional organisers to look at.
Also at the show I had a lovely chat on the UK Health Radio stand with the charming Robert Lumme, an architect and ‘Building Biologist’ from Germany-based company Baufritz.  He’d given an interesting talk about the extraordinary lengths they go to in order to design and build homes which effectively shield you from environmental triggers that affect your health - including things like anti-glare tv screens which help reduce the risk of migraines.

On the FABED stand I met some absolutely amazing and inspirational women, whose children suffer with a tragic and debilitating Gastro-Intestinal disorder called Eosinophilic (ee-oh-sin-o-fil-ick); it has no known cure. 

Whilst I came away from the show with a full tummy, a goody bag full of leaflets and contact details for apdo-uk to follow up with possible charity partners, I also came away profoundly affected by how incredibly vulnerable some people can be to having an allergic reaction from what most of us take for granted - the most important and fundamental things in our lives - what we eat or drink and the air we breathe.  I will never take them for granted ever again.
Rubber Latex Allergy
The week after the show I mentioned my visit to my dentist, and how I was going to write this article for my professional organising colleagues.  He told me about a couple of very sad cases he’d heard about recently where dental patients have died (not at his practice I hasten to add!) because of undiagnosed allergies to things like ingredients in mouth washes. 

He also asked if we ever wear gloves when we’re working – which occasionally some of us do – and that I MUST write about the possible risk of wearing rubber latex gloves in the presence of people who may have an allergy to latex.  So I looked it up on the very helpful Allergy UK website. 

Apparently around 6% of the UK population are allergic to natural rubber latex protein, and that approximately 10% of health personnel who are occupationally exposed to rubber gloves and other rubber articles, have been found to suffer symptoms on contact.

It seems that some people who are sensitive to latex don’t even need to wear or touch latex to be affected by it, and the effects can be immediate and serious - severe itching and nettle rash (hives) usually within minutes of contact, which may progress to sneezing, wheezing, dizziness and/or light headedness and collapse.

I will endeavour to be vigilant and take extra care when visiting clients, especially if I come across things like inhalers or spacers, or if the client is wearing allergy alert jewellery or come across an EpiPen (the injection method used by people when they go into anaphylactic shock.

So I will try and keep using things like rubber bands and washing up gloves to a minimum, and use non-latex gloves whenever possible if the need to wear protective gloves arises. 

To find out more about latex allergies, visit the Latex Allergy Support Group website.

First Aid training

As a result of attending the Show, I’m now even more acutely aware how much responsibility I have to my clients to make a difference to their lives.
So I'm planning on attending a First Aid training course (the last one I did was over 10 years ago), so that I’m better placed to be able to help my clients and anyone else who may be affected by allergies and other medical conditions. 

My clients usually find that decluttering and organising their stuff is a life changing experience - let's hope it's never life threatening.