Children at risk of anaphylaxis in Victoria soars, study finds

THE number of Victorian children at risk of potentially fatal anaphylaxis has risen by 41 per cent in the last six years.

A study of more than 550,000 pupils from 1500 schools has found the number prescribed with epipens rose from 5269 in 2009 to 7805 in 2014: an increase from 0.98 per cent to 1.38 per cent.

Despite this rise, the rate at which epipens are being used has remained steady.

One of the study’s researchers, Professor Katie Allen, said yesterday this was likely to be due to “people getting better at avoiding allergens”.

The study, reported in the latest Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, follows a recent finding that Victoria is the world’s food allergy capital.


Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Professor Katie Allen.

Prof Allen, director of the Centre for Food and Allergy Research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said the increase in anaphylaxis risk was associated with an increase in all food allergies over the last 20 to 30 years.

“There is a tide coming through, and this is the age group leading the epidemic,” she said.

Prof Allen said blanket food bans at school could never be adequately policed, but bans on food sharing were vital.

“Children who have allergies should only eat the food they can eat, and should not share food with others.”

The study shows that epipens are more likely to be used in secondary schools than in primary schools.

Researchers attributed this to “less vigilance in allergen avoidance, decreased parental supervision and increased risk-taking activities”.

The study also found a fall in anaphylaxis risk in secondary school pupils.

But researchers attributed this more to a change in parental reporting, saying: “This is a matter of concern, because it possibly reflects under-reporting of risk and may result in increased risk-taking.”

The number of Victorian children at risk of potentially fatal anaphylaxis has risen by 41 per cent in the last six years.

Prof Allen said the increase in anaphylaxis risk could not simply be put down to an overprescription of epipens.

“Fifteen or 20 years ago everyone with food allergies would get an epipen, but now there are new and very clear guidelines,” she said.

Maria Said, the president of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, said the results were not all that surprising.

“We know that one in ten babies are diagnosed with food allergies and 3 per cent of them have peanut allergies, which are lifelong,” she said.

“So it’s to be expected that there is an increase in the anaphylaxis risk rate in schools.”

Ms Said said it was heartening that students appeared to be managing their allergies successfully.

“Teachers have much better awareness and there is much better access to information,” Ms Said said.

Anaphylaxis as you can see form this article is becoming more and more of a concern so make sure that you are up to date with your first aid training. All school teachers and childcare assistants should be first aid trained on a regular basis so that they are ready for any emergency that may occur. Not only will you receive training in the use of epipens but in asthma, cpr and many more components of first aid. Get trained to with Canberra First Aid.

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