13 Jun Teenagers with asthma have increased risk of anaphylaxis, study finds
Teenagers with food allergy are four times more likely to report having asthma than those without, according to new data from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
The link between asthma and anaphylaxis was made from the results of a study of 10,000 adolescents (aged 10-14) in metropolitan Melbourne.
It found people with multiple food allergies report 10 times the incidence of asthma.
The link has prompted concerns among health professionals, that a teenager’s anaphylactic reaction could be mistaken for an asthma attack, leading to a delay in the administration of a life-saving adrenaline auto injector.
“If a person is coughing, wheezing or experiencing breathing difficulties, sometimes it can be hard to work out if they are having an asthma attack or having anaphylaxis,” said lead researcher Professor Katie Allen, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
“Instead of immediately administering valuable time can be wasted administering the asthma inhaler.”
The findings come at the launch of Food Allergy Week 2016, which runs from May 15 to 21, and aims to raise awareness about food allergies.
Every year there are around 30,000 new cases of food allergy in Australia. Experts estimate that, at the current rate, there will be 7.7 million Australians with allergy by 2050.
Maria Said, President of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia, said the rate of allergy incidence in Australia was growing at “an alarming rate.”
“Australia has one of the highest rates of food allergy in the world … With such a rapid increase in food allergy over the last 10 to 15 years, our current generation of teenagers is one of the fastest-growing demographics for allergy management.”
She pointed to the story of 15-year-old Jack Irvine, who tragically died in 2012 after mistakenly eating biscuit containing macadamia nuts.
Suffering from both nut allergies and asthma, Jack’s symptoms initially presented as asthma-related, however his reaction was later identified as anaphylaxis.
Ms Said said Jack’s story proved the importance of allergy education within the community.
In Australia up to two per cent of children and adolescents aged between 10 and 14 suffer from a nut allergy, while five per cent suffer from food allergy.
Professor Allen said the results of the Institute’s study allowed researchers to look at the full spectrum of food allergic disease, including patients who were seeing doctors about their allergies and those who were not.
“A study of this type and size has never been undertaken anywhere in the world,” she said.
“There have unfortunately been some deaths from anaphylaxis in recent years where children with food allergy and asthma have not been seeing an allergist for their problems and we wonder whether they have been poorly educated about the signs and symptoms and that’s been a factor in their death.”
If a person believes they may have eaten a food they are allergic to and they experience breathing difficulties, even if they have asthma, “anaphylaxis should be top consideration,” Professor Allen said.
“And it’s certainly not going to hurt to give the adrenaline anyway.”