Why do few food-allergic adolescents treat anaphylaxis with adrenaline? – reviewing a pressing issue

Authors

  • Tom Marrs,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Paediatric Allergy, Division of Asthma, Allergy and Lung Biology, King's College, London, UK
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  • Gideon Lack

    1. Department of Paediatric Allergy, Division of Asthma, Allergy and Lung Biology, King's College, London, UK
    2. Children's Allergies, St Thomas' Hospital, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
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Correspondence

Dr Tom Marrs, MRCPCH MSc

Clinical Research Fellow in Paediatric Allergy, Department of Paediatric Allergy, Division of Asthma, Allergy and Lung Biology, King's College London, UK.

Tel.: 0207 188 4877

Fax: 0207 188 9782

E-mail: tommarrs@doctors.org.uk

Abstract

Food allergic adolescents are at higher risk of fatal anaphylaxis than other children. Both allergen avoidance and maintaining access to adrenaline auto-injectors (AAI) are key goals in effective food allergy management, for which written guidance is often supplied. However, adolescents are rarely sufficiently prepared to use adrenaline during anaphylaxis. It is likely that further didactic education would bring limited improvement in management in this population. Focused discussion of each adolescent's perspectives and current management practice may allow more effective behavioural strategies to be adopted. Key areas for appraisal include subjects' experiences after previous allergen exposure with reference to worst response, recognising specific symptoms requiring AAI administration, and appropriate priority being given to timeliness of administering adrenaline. Behavioural strategies should be discussed to increase AAI accessibility. Rigor of allergen avoidance should not be compromised by false reassurance of proximity to emergency medication or medical services. Food allergic adolescents are motivated by the psychological impact of their condition, which often makes them feel different to their peers and may result in bullying. Methods of appropriately empowering adolescents may be considered, such as involvement of close friends and lay organisations to support appropriate management. Open discussion is crucial in engaging with adolescents' reasoning for adopting their chosen management strategies. Further research is warranted to identify cognitive patterns associated with high-risk behaviour, and to design appropriate interventions for the augmentation of adolescent self-management skills.

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