American researchers characterize anaphylaxis nationally

A large, comprehensive national survey on anaphylaxis, including its triggers and treatment, shows that severe allergic reactions consistent with anaphylaxis are common among those in the general population reporting allergic reactions.

John M. Boyle, PhD, of the Abt SRBI research firm in Silver Spring, Maryland, and colleagues used a questionnaire to screen household members for allergic reactions to foods, insect stings, latex, medications. They also looked for other allergens and idiopathic reactions. When multiple household members had allergies, the person with the most severe allergic reaction was chosen for the interview. Participants were asked more than 100 questions about anaphylaxis awareness, triggers, symptoms, treatments, knowledge, perceptions, behaviors, and quality of life.

Phone calls were made to a nationally-representative sample of 1000 persons who had experienced allergic reactions within the previous ten years. According to the researchers, the survey found that 18% of persons with these types of allergies had experienced at least one likely anaphylactic reaction. Among those reporting anaphylactic reactions, 42% occurred within 15 minutes of exposure. The most common triggers were medications (33%), foods (28%), insect stings (21%), other (15%), unknown (7%), and latex (3%).

Among those reporting anaphylaxis, 38% sought emergency room care, 28% self-treated with antihistamines, 13% went to a doctor’s office, and 13% self-administered epinephrine. Although 57% reported two or more lifetime episodes, only 18% of the individuals reporting anaphylaxis currently carry epinephrine, the study showed.