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Half of People with Food Allergies Report One or More Reactions Each Year

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More than third reported multiple reactions per year

A new study published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice found that 50% of individuals with food allergies report having at least one allergic reaction each year.

The study entitled “Understanding Food Related Allergic Reactions through a US National Patient Registry” explored the frequency of food-related reactions and the motivation for intentional exposure to a known food allergen.

Said study co-author Dr Ruchi Gupta, director of CFAAR, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, and physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago:

With half of the people with food allergies reporting one allergic reaction a year and over a third reporting multiple reactions, we need to better understand the causes to help with prevention. Very little data exists on the frequency and context of food-related allergic reactions and this study shows us that more research is needed.

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The study used Food allergy Research and Education’s (FARE) Patient Registry, a national online repository of data collected from participants with food allergy.

Of the 3,054 respondents who completed the most recent reaction survey, 9.9% of food allergen exposures were classified as intentional, 82.1% as unintentional, and 4.8% as medically related (oral food challenges and/or oral immunotherapy).  The most common reason for unintentional exposure was cross-contact with an allergen, with 24.1% of children and 32.2% of adults citing cross-contact as the main reason for exposure.

While most food-related reactions are caused by unintentional exposure to an allergen, 1 in 10 reactions are due to intentional exposure to food allergens, according to the new study.

Said lead author Dr Jamie L. Fierstein, Senior Research Data Analyst at CFAAR:

We were surprised to find that 10 percent of reported food allergen exposures were intentional. We need further research on these types of exposure behaviors in both children and adults so that we can develop strategies on how to introduce foods safely if an individual feels like they may no longer be allergic.

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The most common reason for pediatric intentional exposure was the child never had a serious reaction before. For adults, the common motivation was the decision to take the risk, despite knowing the dangers. These results are contrary to current food allergy guidelines, which suggest strict avoidance of allergens. The risky behavior taken by caregivers and adults with intentional allergen exposure indicates the need for more education and support for understanding and managing the risk of anaphylaxis.

“There is so much more to learn about food-related allergic reactions, but these findings are an exciting and important start to answering questions we have been asking for years,” said Dr. Thomas B. Casale, Distinguished Chairman of the FARE Clinical Network and Principal Investigator, FARE Patient Registry. “FARE and the FARE Patient Registry are dedicated to supporting this effort by connecting the individuals and families living with food allergy with the research community that is committed to solving the food allergy epidemic.”

The FARE Patient Registry was launched in May 2017 and reflects the combined efforts of FARE’s team of leading medical authorities on food allergy science, as well as researchers and doctors from around the nation. This is the first paper to utilize the registry’s valuable data and showcases the need for more data and the strength in collaboration between leading food allergy research institutions, clinicians, and others seeking to deepen their understanding of the everyday burden caused by food allergy, improve patient care and education, and lead the way for the discovery of better treatments and a cure.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of SnackSafely.com.