Food allergies may cause more ER visits than previously thought

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Asthma, Allergy

Food allergies send many more Americans to emergency rooms each year than previously thought, according to new research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The most common allergies among children are cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans and wheat, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while the most common among adults are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, fruits and vegetables.

This latest research, led by Sunday Clark of the University of Pittsburgh, found that acute allergic reactions to foods accounted for about 203,000 hospital emergency department visits each year from 2001 to 2005, including about 90,000 for probable anaphylaxis.

“These results suggest that the number of US ED ​[emergency department] visits for food-related acute allergic reactions may be significantly higher than estimated in previous reports,”​ Clark wrote.

Previous estimates of how many allergic reactions led to emergency department visits have been much lower. One study conducted in the late 1990s suggested that there were about 29,000 hospital visits each year for food allergy-induced anaphylaxis, while another study estimated that about 125,000 Americans were hospitalized because of food allergies in 2003, and about 14,000 of those cases involved anaphylaxis.

The authors of this latest research – basing their findings on data from two large emergency department-based cohort studies and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) – said that their numbers were higher because of the wider data used, although they added that it is also possible that there has been an increase in the number of Americans with food allergies.

“Recent concerns about the increasing prevalence of food allergy support further research on time trends in ED use for food-related acute allergic reactions,”​ they wrote.

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three million children had food allergies in 2007, up 18 percent from a decade earlier.

Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.040

“Frequency of US emergency department visits for food-related acute allergic reactions”

Authors: Sunday Clark, Janice Espinola, Susan A. Rudders, Aleena Banerji, Carlos A. Camargo, Jr

Related topics: R&D

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