No increase in deaths due to anaphylaxis over last 20 years

Published Online: November 25, 2014

Anaphylaxis is an acute, life-threatening systemic allergic reaction that can lead to cardiorespiratory arrest within minutes. However, death from anaphylaxis is relatively rare, and analysis of these events may highlight factors associated with a poorer outcome. In a study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Turner and colleagues present data relating to anaphylaxis deaths over the past two decades in the United Kingdom.

The authors extracted data from national databases that record hospital admissions and fatalities caused by anaphylaxis between 1992 and 2012. All deaths were crosschecked against a prospective fatal anaphylaxis registry. The registry represents the largest patient data collection of fatal anaphylaxis in the world.

Despite a significant increase in hospitalizations for anaphylaxis, the rate of fatalities has remained stable. Drug- and insect sting–induced anaphylaxis were more common in those over 60, while food-triggered deaths occurred predominantly in younger people. This was not limited to teenagers (as previously reported), but also included adults in their 30s and 40s – an age group not known for risky behaviors (which are often cited as causing excess mortality due to food-induced anaphylaxis in teenagers).

Importantly, the relatively lower rates of fatalities in older ages were not explained by age-related differences in rates of hospitalization due to anaphylaxis. The authors suggest that there may be a specific vulnerability to severe outcomes from food-induced allergic reactions in the second and third decades of life.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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