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Severe food-allergic reactions in children across the UK and Ireland, 1998-2000

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Allan ColverORCiD, Professor Andrew Cant


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Aim: Medical and lay concerns about food allergy are increasing. Whilst food allergy may be becoming more common, fatal reactions to food in childhood are very rare and their rate is not changing. We sought to establish how common severe reactions are. Methods: Prospective survey, 1998 to 2000, of hospital admissions for food-allergic reactions-conducted primarily through the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, covering the 13 million children in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Results: 229 cases reported by 176 physicians in 133 departments, yielding a rate of 0.89 hospital admissions per 100 000 children per year. Sixty-five per cent were male, 41% were under 4 y and 60% started at home. Main allergens were peanut (21%), tree nuts (16%), cow's milk (10%) and egg (7%). Main symptoms were facial swelling (76%), urticaria (69%), respiratory (66%), shock (13%), gastrointestinal (4%). Fifty-eight cases were severe. Three were fatal, six near fatal, and 8 of these 9 had asthma with wheeze being the life-threatening symptom. Three near-fatal cases received excess intravenous epinephrine. None of the non-fatal reactions resulted in mental or physical impairment. Seven of 171 non-severe and 6/58 severe cases might have had a worse outcome if epinephrine auto-injectors had been unavailable. Six of the severe cases might have benefited if auto-injectors had been more widely prescribed. Conclusion: In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the incidence of severe reactions is low. The study highlights that: asthma is a strongly significant risk factor for a severe reaction and therefore warrants optimal management; severe wheeze is a prominent feature of severe reactions and warrants optimal management; intravenous epinephrine should be used with great care if needed. Epinephrine auto-injectors do not always prevent death, but our study design and data do not allow a definite statement about whether overall they are beneficial. © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Colver AF, Nevantaus H, Macdougall CF, Cant AJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Acta Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics

Year: 2005

Volume: 94

Issue: 6

Pages: 689-695

Print publication date: 01/06/2005

ISSN (print): 0803-5253

ISSN (electronic): 1651-2227

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1080/08035250510031566

PubMed id: 16188770


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