A new research study by Imperial College London, gives an insight into the rise in allergic reactions, over the last twenty years.
By examining NHS records between 1998 and 2018, for hospital admission, it was shown that the number of people admitted for anaphylaxis has risen three-fold – a 5.7% increase each year. 30% of the 101,891 individuals were coded as having a food trigger for their reaction, but the largest increase in food-induced anaphylaxis is amongst children under 15 years old.
This new analysis, published by the British Medical Journal, is a strong step in the right direction for the analysis of the boom in allergic disease. Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, Professor of Immunopharmacology at Southampton University and a trustee of the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, says the true picture of how widespread severe food allergies are in the UK is likely to be an even bigger issue than this study suggests.
‘While we welcome this valuable analysis, the three-fold increase in anaphylactic hospital admissions caused by food allergies over the past 20 years only captures part of the problem and may be an underestimate – the lack of allergy specialists means that anaphylaxis is being underdiagnosed and underfollowed up.’
He continued, ‘This study only looked at UK hospital admissions and we know that many people who experience a severe food allergy will be treated as an outpatient in A&E. Therefore, the true toll of severe and life-threatening food allergies in the UK is likely to be much higher especially since anaphylaxis masquerades as other clinical conditions such as asthma, angioedema and urticaria (hives).
This under-representation of the issue is why The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation is calling for a national register of anaphylactic deaths – this would mean the process for coding anaphylactic reactions, and therefore deaths, would have to change, to gain more accurate data. Currently, many deaths caused by food allergies are mis-coded.
Often, the primary cause of death in miscoded cases is noted as asthma, due to the restricted breathing caused – this was the case at Natasha Ednan Laperouse’s inquest, as well as Shante Turay Thomas and Owen Carey, who’s inquests the Foundation also attended.
Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, co-founder of the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, said: ‘We are deeply concerned that deaths caused by severe food allergic reactions are being significantly under-reported. This study highlights the urgent need for a national register of deaths by anaphylaxis.
‘We have witnessed at first hand the miscoding by pathologists of deaths caused by severe food allergic reactions.
‘It is symptomatic of the inconsistent approach to allergen safety in this country. Only with a national register can the true picture of the allergy crisis be seen and the voices of those crying out for action, including clinicians as well as families, be properly heard.’
Natasha’s Foundation campaign to change the allergy landscape in the UK, and ensure the voice of those suffering with allergic disease is heard loud and clear to those who can make impactful change in health services and care. To keep up to date with their news and campaigning success, you can join Natasha’s Army, their mailing list, to be part of their journey in finding a cure for allergies.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) have also reported on the findings of the study.