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Patients treated in emergency departments (EDs) for severe allergic reactions to food don't always receive proper lifesaving care, according to a new survey involving 21 EDs in North America. Researchers found that just 16% of patients who arrived at EDs with severe allergic reactions received epinephrine, the treatment of choice for anaphylactic reactions.


The patients studied experienced severe allergic reactions to nuts, crustaceans, fruit, or fish. Researchers found that 72% of patients received antihistamines and 48% received corticosteroids, even though neither class of drugs is an appropriate first-line treatment for a severe allergic reaction. Overall, 33% of patients received respiratory treatments, such as inhaled albuterol.

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At the time of discharge, only 16% of patients received a prescription for self-injectable epinephrine and only 12% were advised to visit an allergist or immunologist.


Researchers say their findings suggest that health care professionals working in EDs need better education about how to recognize and treat allergic reactions and what to teach patients.




"Multicenter Study of Emergency Department Visits for Food Allergies," The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, S. Clark, et al., February 2004.