Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Serious News: AAFA Study Sheds Light on 'Anaphylaxis In America'

I will get to the base of this study in a moment, but first I would like to ask--how many people realistically know what anaphylaxis is? Does the average American know the symptoms or just shrug off food allergies like a myth or old wives' tale? Peanut allergy and nut allergies are about as common as the name 'John' in schools nowadays....but what about anaphylaxis to corn or steak? Yes, the same deadly reaction can and does occur with rarer foods and even environmental triggers such as cat dander or dust mites. Some anaphylaxis reactions can and do occur without any known exposure or warning, such as during exercise or strenuous activity.

Now as seemingly rare as nut allergies are, we rarely hear about other deadly food allergies in the real world, do we? Unless we are active among the food allergy community or working at an educational institution, hearing about deadly soy allergy or milk allergy is akin to seeing a ghost.

That being said, the facts show that anaphylaxis is much more common than you think.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) led a study published October 21, 2013 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) which found that severe life-threatening allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis are common in the U.S.

 According to the peer-reviewed study, anaphylaxis very likely occurs in nearly 1-in-50 Americans (1.6%), and the rate is probably higher, close to 1-in-20 (5.1%).

According to Dr. Robert Wood, chair of the AAFA research panel that conducted the study and Director of Allergy & Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, “This study provides the first estimate of anaphylaxis prevalence in the United States using a large unbiased survey."

One of the writers of the article, Senior Vice President at AAFA, Mike Tringale points out, “One of the most alarming things we found is that, despite the common occurrence of anaphylaxis, most people are not prepared to do the right thing when emergency reactions occur,” says Mike Tringale, Senior Vice President at AAFA. “We need to re-double our efforts to make sure that people are informed and have access to the right medication.”

With four auto-injectors now on the market, anyone who has had any sort of severe anaphylactic reaction in the past should speak to their doctor about carrying one just in case. You can read about those injectors and helpful tips here before you ask your doctor for that prescription.

I happen to know someone who has anaphylaxis to onions. She knows her allergy as 'onion allergy' and I recently let her know it is called allium allergy. She has been to the hospital twice for severe hives and breathing problems and she barely remembers those visits, except for the fact that she got better. She is not allergic to anything else, yet she does not carry an Epi-Pen! Why?

"Because no doctors told me I had to."

To which I exclaimed, "Have you seen an allergist?!!!"



This brought me to the conclusion that some doctors will not prescribe an Epi-Pen, even if the person had symptoms of anaphylaxis and went to the hospital. For the most part, an allergist can prescribe based on conclusive testing results.

For this reason, I am begging those of you who know someone who had a severe anaphylaxis reaction even once in their life, to talk to their doctor about carrying an Epi-Pen or other epinephrine injector.

This is not a joke. There is nothing I can say that can describe the feeling that in a few minutes, you are going to die...unless you stab yourself, first.

Please forward this post to anyone you know who might need a little push in the right direction. Let them know they're not alone and if the person is you, congratulations, you are now more aware than many people around you. Now what are you going to do about it?


  1. I'm shocked that she'd been to the hospital for symptoms of anaphylaxis, yet not been prescribed an Epi Pen. I was prescribed one by an allergist before I'd ever had symptoms and again when I went to the hospital last March.

  2. Oh I know. It baffles and scares me as well. Every time I go to the ER they give me a new script for the Epi, but then again, I have quite a history of allergists and hospital visits....which is why I worry for those who don't know what they're dealing with and have never visited an allergist.