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Despite New Treatment Developments, Food Allergies Still Pose Dangerous Threats

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Robert A. Wood,

M.D., FAAAAI, President, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

“The key will then be to identify the best treatment for each patient without losing sight of the dangers of anaphylaxis.”

Food allergies affect about 1 in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom. Even more alarming is how much more common having a food allergy appears to have become in a short period of time and how dangerous it can be.

Food-induced anaphylaxis

Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction, in outpatient settings. Estimates suggest emergency room visits for food-induced anaphylaxis occur every six minutes in the United States, and the rates are increasing.

While we are certainly excited about treatments for food allergy that are on the horizon, their availability will not make food-induced anaphylaxis a thing of the past. Improved patient education, combined with the increasing awareness of food allergy among the general public, will hopefully lead to fewer reactions over time, but each and every reaction has the potential to be severe or fatal.

Prompt and effective treatment of anaphylaxis by all health care providers is of paramount importance for providing the best possible care for patients with food allergies.

The prevention and treatment of food allergy

These are exciting times in the world of food allergy. We now know that many cases of food allergy can be prevented, and clear guidelines for the prevention of a peanut allergy, which relies on early introduction of peanuts into infant diets, have been developed.

Dramatic progress has also been made in the development of food allergy treatments. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will likely approve therapies for peanut allergy in the near future. Treatments that involve either eating small amounts of peanut (oral immunotherapy) or applying peanut to the skin via a patch (epicutaneous immunotherapy) are progressing through the large clinical studies needed to ensure that these approaches are safe and effective.

Other approaches for the treatment of peanut and other food allergies are also under active study, with the potential that new and better treatments will emerge over time. The key will then be to identify the best treatment for each patient without losing sight of the dangers of anaphylaxis.

Robert A. Wood, M.D., FAAAAI, President, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, [email protected]

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