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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Milk Allergy Fatalities Still Too High

Deaths from various food allergies, including milk, has continued at about the same level over the past five years, says a report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2007 Mar 7, by Pumphrey RS and Gowland MH, titled Further fatal allergic reactions to food in the United Kingdom, 1999-2006.

Anne Muñoz-Furlong, Founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is disturbed by the findings. In a press release she issues, Food Allergy Fatalities Continue Unabated, FAAN writes that:

A new report on fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis, which follows up an earlier study, suggests that little progress has been made in effectively preventing and treating food allergy reactions over the past five years. The findings support, alarmingly, earlier statistics showing that adolescents and young adults are at highest risk for fatalities. The need for more education on the part of the medical community and patients, more attention focused on reading labels and avoiding allergens, and the importance of carrying and using epinephrine are some of the major areas which need to be improved.

The report, which appears in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) looks at 31 individuals who died as a result of their food allergies. This report follows up one from 2001 in which 32 food-induced fatalities were examined.


The foods primarily responsible continue to be peanuts and tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, but also include milk and shrimp. The most common food sources were restaurant or food service items with hidden allergens (46%) and packaged food with undeclared allergens (27%). Desserts, particularly cookies and bakery items, and Chinese food such as egg rolls caused a significant number of the reactions. In 13% of cases, the food items were homemade. In addition, every individual, for whom there was information, had asthma.

Most of the individuals were not carrying their self-injectable epinephrine, and some had never been prescribed this life-saving drug. A June 2006 study entitled "Risk-Taking and Coping Strategies of Food Allergic Adolescents and Young Adults," also published in JACI, showed that adolescents often don't carry their epinephrine self-injectors because they are self-conscious about carrying something that makes them look different from their friends.

"The solution starts with better education of medical professionals at all levels. Physicians need to do a better job of diagnosing patients and providing adequate evaluation. They also need to redouble their efforts to emphasize the importance of allergen avoidance and carrying epinephrine at all times," reports the study co-author Allan Bock, M.D., an allergist in Colorado.

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Anonymous said...

Was there any information in the article about how many of those who died also had asthma? I find levels of awareness of the danger of food allergies in asthma are low in patients.

Steve Carper said...

The study was a meta-study: in other words, it looked at the results of earlier studies and compiled them.

They only mention the asthma connection in regards to one specific study.

"Colvar et al reported 9 children with severe reactions: 3 were fatal and 6 were "near-fatal." Six subjects were known to be allergic to the food causing the reaction, and only 1 of 9 had never had a known food-allergic reaction. In the 3 fatal cases, peanut was the likely culprit in 1 and cow’s milk in the other 2. The 3 who died had a history of asthma."

Colver AF, Nevantaus H, Macdougall CF, Cant AJ. Severe food-allergic reactions in children across the UK and Ireland, 1998-2000. Acta Paediatr 2005;94:689-95.

Unknown said...

This report on medscape refers to a recent study about anaphylaxis fatalities, which found that 'comorbidities' were common in such deaths -