Study highlights need to address anaphylaxis prevention

October 24, 2013

Severe life-threatening allergic reactions are more common than many thought. 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 a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Severe life-threatening allergic reactions are more common than many thought. 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 a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Anaphylaxis in America: The prevalence and characteristics of anaphylaxis in the United States, by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), focuses on the prevalence of anaphylaxis in the United States, as well as the behaviors and attitudes of the public and patients regarding this life-threatening disease. Despite the prevalence, researchers also found that most patients are not prepared during an anaphylactic episode.

“An alarming number of patients are not getting prescriptions for life-saving epinephrine, are not keeping their epinephrine auto-injectors nearby, or are not using them during allergic reactions when they should,” said study author Michael Tringale, MSM, senior vice president of external affairs at AAFA.

In fact, 60% of patients who reported anaphylaxis in the last 10 years did not have an epinephrine auto-injector available to them at the time of the survey. “The study makes it clear that more effort is needed to educate the public and patients about anaphylaxis risks, prevention, and treatment,” Tringale said.

“Anaphylaxis can occur anywhere, and anyone can unexpectedly find themselves at the front-line dealing with this increasingly common condition,” said Tringale. “Even though the study found a majority of reactions occurred at home [54%], researchers also found that anaphylaxis occurred at the hospital or clinic in 13% of cases. [managed care and hospital decision-makers] are pertinent to helping educate the public and patients to better prepare for life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.”

Although anaphylaxis is recognized as an important life-threatening condition, data are limited regarding its prevalence and characteristics in the general population.

“The study was done to provide one of the most up-to-date and reliable studies of anaphylaxis prevalence and to help experts understand how the public and patients behave regarding anaphylaxis,” Tringale said.

Prior to this study, existing estimates of anaphylaxis prevalence in the United States varied and were based on small samples or trigger-specific populations. Anaphylaxis in America provides the first estimate of anaphylaxis prevalence in the United States using a large, unbiased survey.

The study was designed by AAFA along with a leading group of health, medical, and research experts. Two independent nationwide, cross-sectional random-digit-dial (RDD) landline telephone surveys were conducted by the survey research firm Abt SRBI – a public survey and a patient survey. For the public survey, 1,000 interviews were completed to assess public awareness, attitudes, and prevalence. Data for the public survey were weighted by age and gender to be representative of the U.S. population. For the patient survey, 1,059 rigorously-screened interviews were completed to assess patient and caregiver awareness, attitudes, and behaviors.

“Given the recurrent nature of anaphylaxis and the substantial proportion of reactions that include potentially life-threatening symptoms, Anaphylaxis in America sheds light on the critical need for improved public health initiatives regarding anaphylaxis recognition and treatment,” Tringale said.