Murder More Likely Than Dying From Severe Food Allergy Reaction
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Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that between four and six percent of children in the US have some form of a food allergy, and while it also notes there is no cure for such an illness, redOrbit’s Brett Smith recently reported that a 10-year-old boy was in fact cured of his peanut allergy following a bone marrow transplant.
While such an incident is about as rare as it can get, another allergy study from Imperial College London suggests that people with food allergies are more at risk from being murdered than from actually dying from a severe allergic reaction.
Those who suffer from food allergies, as well as their loved ones, often experience much anxiety about the possibility of life-threatening allergic reactions – anaphylaxis – and the possibility that they could die from such ordeals. However, there has never been any conclusive data on just how common anaphylactic death is.
This is where Dr. Robert Boyle, who works in the Department of Medicine at Imperial, comes in.
Dr. Boyle and colleagues collected data on 13 worldwide studies and calculated that for any person with a food allergy, the odds of dying from anaphylactic shock in one year is 1.81 in a million. The risk is only slightly higher – 3.25 in one million – for children and young people up to age 19.
“Worrying about severe allergic reactions can take a huge toll on someone’s quality of life,” Dr. Boyle said in a statement.
According to background information included with the study, the risk of being murdered in the US is 61 in a million for all ages. For children ages 0-19, the risk of murder is 40 in a million. Death risk from allergies is even smaller when compared to accidental deaths. In the US, an estimated 399 people for every million are at risk of dying from an accidental cause. For children, the risk is somewhat lower at 73.9 per million, although still much higher than allergy death risk.
“Everyone has heard stories of people who have died suddenly from a severe allergic reaction, and these stories are frightening. But events like this appear to be very rare, and it’s helpful to put that risk in perspective,” added Dr. Boyle.
He noted that it is important to reassure people that living with a food allergy does not necessarily mean that overall risk of dying is pronounced. But at the same time, it is equally important to not belittle their concerns, said Dr. Boyle, explaining that people should still “continue to take reasonable precautions.”
“We should address anxiety and quality of life for food allergic people and their carers, rather than just focus on the risk of death,” Dr. Boyle said in the statement.
Despite the overall risk of death being significantly low, ER admissions for children with food allergies are on the rise, increasing five-fold in the last 20 years. While this is alarming, there is no clear reason for the developing trend.
Allergic reactions typically involve swelling, rash and eczema. While there is no known reason why some more severe, life-threatening reactions occur, experts believe dose of the allergen plays a role in that risk. However, the particular dose that causes anaphylaxis is hard to measure because it can vary widely depending on the type of allergy. Anaphylaxis is most common in young people, but currently there is no way to tell which patients are most at risk of having a severe, life-threatening reaction.
The study, titled “Incidence of fatal food anaphylaxis in people with food allergy: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” is published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy. It was funded by Lincoln Medical and the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.
The most common type of food allergy is to peanuts. Other common food allergies include eggs, milk, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat. While there is no known cure for allergies, it is not uncommon that some children who have them at a young age can outgrow them.