Huge rise in potentially fatal allergies

Hospital admissions for anaphylactic shock, or anaphylactic episodes as they are sometimes known, have increased by 700% in the last two decades.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic response causing life threatening circulation, breathing and/or airway problems. Triggers can include bee stings, milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, latex, penicillin, hair dye and peanuts. Food allergies affect around 5% of the population, a number that has trebled in the last two decades. Studies suggest that peanut allergy has more than doubled in the last decade. About 50,000 people in the UK suffer an anaphylactic shock over the course of their lifetime. Anaphylaxis causes about 20 deaths a year from heart attacks and suffocation by swelling of tissues in the mouth and throat.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) reports that there have been regional differences in the way anaphylaxis has been treated in hospitals. New guidelines for anaphylaxis have been issued by NICE make the following recommendations:

  • Record circumstances immediately before the reaction in order to identify the trigger
  • Children under 16 years old should be admitted to the paediatric medical team in an emergency when anaphylaxis is suspected.
  • After treatment for anaphylaxis, the patient/parent/carer should be offered a self-administered adrenaline injector, before the follow up appointment with a specialist.
  • Separate referral panels be used for suspected anaphylaxis in adults and children.

Sources: The Independent and Boots/WebMD

National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines on Anaphylaxis

First Published in December 2011


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