MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Food allergy affects up to 10% of children and 2-3% of adults, and appears to increasing in prevalence. The rise in food allergy prevalence has coincided with increased reports of anaphylaxis. Previous research has shown that adolescents are most at risk of experiencing adverse food reactions and appear to be at higher risk of anaphylaxis fatalities but are an understudied age group in food allergy research.
In a large population representative sample of 10,000 10-14 year olds in Melbourne, Australia we found that alarmingly over 40% had experienced an allergic reaction in the past year and almost 10% reported potentially life threatening reactions. Consistent with other research peanut and tree nuts were the most common trigger foods for reactions and those with nut allergy were most at risk of anaphylaxis. Having more than two food allergies doubled the risk of a food allergic reaction compared to those with a single food allergy. Surprisingly, reactions were found to occur most commonly at home rather than restaurants or school.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: For those with food allergies, adolescents is a high risk period for adverse food reactions and anaphylaxis. Our results highlight the alarming frequency of adverse food reactions among adolescents and the need for specific management and education strategies aimed at allergen avoidance in this high risk age group. It is important for parents and clinicians to ensure that adolescents begin to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to navigate avoidance of accidental exposure to their food allergen and what to do if reactions do occur. If an adrenalin auto–injector is prescribed then transferring the responsibility of carrying it at all times to the adolescent is vital.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Identification of both the frequency and severity of adverse events in food allergic adolescents in the general community is an important first step to understanding why adolescents are one of the age groups most at risk of death from anaphylaxis. The Schoolnuts study has been designed to understand some of those drivers of risk and we are now investigating the role that knowledge, attitude and risk taking behaviour as well as access to allergy care has on frequency of adverse events. These results will help inform future clinical guidelines and public health measures aimed at reducing the frequency of adverse events in food allergic adolescents.
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40% of food allergy adolescents experience frequent anaphylactic episodes
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
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