International studies report marked increases in the prevalence of food allergy, along with increases in hospital admissions and emergency presentations for severe allergic reactions due to foods. The prevalence of self-reported food allergy is common, but generally exceeds that which can be verified from challenge studies, although nut allergies appear to be an important exception to this rule. Studies examining food allergy deaths suggest that those who die of food allergy usually have co-existent asthma. Adolescents and young adults are at most risk, and adrenaline auto-injectors are sub-optimally used. Food chemical sensitivity is very commonly reported but not usually verified by challenge testing. However, the exception to this is sulphite sensitivity, which can elicit reproducible reactions in some. The increasing prevalence of severe food allergies and awareness of its risk in those with asthma demands an especially rigorous approach to the diagnosis and management of co-existent food allergy and asthma, especially in young people who appear to be at most risk from death from severe food allergy.
Cite this as: A. Gillman and Jo A. Douglass, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 1295–1302.
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