Background There are few data on the long-term management of children with peanut/nut allergy. Advice is variable and often inadequate; further reactions are common. There is no consensus on the criteria for prescription of rescue medication, particularly adrenaline.
Method A longitudinal prospective and case–control study in a tertiary allergy clinic. Patients/parents/school staff of 747 children with confirmed peanut or tree nut allergy received detailed verbal and written advice on nut avoidance, training in recognition and (self-) treatment of reactions and a written treatment plan. The severity of nut allergy was graded (mild–severe) and emergency medication was allocated according to our criteria: all received oral antihistamines, injected adrenaline (EpiPen) was given to those with reactions with airway narrowing, milder reactions to low-dose exposure or concomitant asthma. At annual follow-up over 25 906 patient-months (median: 39 months) retraining was given and details of further reactions (frequency, severity and treatment) were obtained. Criteria for allocation of EpiPen were evaluated.
Results The worst reaction pre-enrolment was mild in 64% and moderate/severe in 36% (airway narrowing). Of 615 subjects followed up, 21% had a further reaction (eightfold reduction in frequency), mostly mild. There was a 60-fold reduction in the frequency of severe reactions. Of those with a moderate–severe initial reaction, 99.5% had no or a less severe follow-up reaction. No child with a mild or severe index reaction had a severe follow-up reaction. Only 1/615 (0.2%) had a severe follow-up reaction and only 2/615 (0.3%) used adrenaline, both successfully and had it available according to our criteria. Of mild–moderate reactions, 77% required oral antihistamines alone and 15% no treatment. Children who had follow-up reactions had more frequent and severe reactions pre-enrolment.
Conclusion The management plan greatly reduced the frequency and severity of further reactions and was successful for all children. Our criteria for selective prescription of EpiPen in the context of this management plan were appropriate. This is the first study to provide evidence on which to inform practice.