National Post article

Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2002 - 10:57am
Caterina2's picture
Joined: 02/14/2001 - 09:00

Here is an article published in The National Post today:

Food allergy risk small, study says

Agence France-Presse
Food allergies are being blown way out of proportion, new research suggests.

A British medical study says the number of children who die or become very ill after eating peanuts, cashews, milk, eggs and other foods is very low, although those with asthma are at higher risk.

Doctors led by Andrew Cant of Newcastle General Hospital looked at national death statistics for children aged up to 15 years, and trawled through monthly reports sent by British pediatricians on health issues.

Over the previous 10 years, eight children died from an allergic reaction from food, four of them after drinking milk, they found.

No child under 13 died from peanut allergy during this time, although peanuts were implicated in five out of six near deaths in 1998-2000, a period which was studied in greater detail.

That translates into a rate of 0.006 deaths for every 100,000 children, and the figure is even lower for children under 10, many of whom grow out of their allergic response.

''The finding of so few deaths in such a large population should reassure parents and doctors that the risk of death is small,'' says a report published today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The risk, however, increases if a child has asthma, which was implicated in three out of the eight deaths and, during 1998-2000, in five out of the six near deaths and more than half of the 49 cases of severe reaction.

Meanwhile, research by the British market analyst Datamonitor has found that one adult in three mistakenly believes he has a food allergy, whereas the true number of people with this condition is only one in 50.

It says many people are diagnosing themselves as allergenic rather than going to see a doctor, and may be suffering from food intolerance rather than a true allergy.

A true food allergy is an abnormal response by the body's immune system to minute amounts of food and can be fatal. In contrast, food intolerance is a reaction that is less severe and not life-threatening, yielding such symptoms as asthma, eczema and migraine.

[This message has been edited by Caterina2 (edited March 25, 2002).]

Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2002 - 12:21pm
AlwaysAvoidAnaphylaxis's picture
Joined: 06/23/2001 - 09:00

I think the numbers are higher; i will forward to FAAN to reply. If that journalist had a child that was anaphylactic to microscopic invisible traces of a food hidden in all sorts of foods where emergent intervention was critical to saving that child's life, the article would read differently.
where can we reply to this article? Letter to the editor or something?

Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2002 - 6:16pm
williamsmummy's picture
Joined: 03/26/2002 - 09:00

try this article from the Times newspaper.
by Nigal Hawkes , health editor.
in the study published in a medical journal ARCHIVES OF DISEASE IN CHILDHOOD , Andrew Cant of newcastle general hospital and his colleagues say that , in the period eight children under the age of 16 died as a result of food allergy. Milk allergy was responsible for 4 of the deaths.
No child under the age of 13 died of a nut allergy, in spite of fears both amoung the public and in the medical profession that such deaths are relatively common.
The team also carried out a second study , for the years 1998 to 2000 from data sent by doctors to the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit.
In those three years, there were six near-deaths , none caused by peanuts and 49 severe allergic reactions , ten of which were linked to peanuts.
Children with asthma were far more likely to either die or be involved in very serious reactions.
The authors calulate hat if 5 % of children in the UK have a food allergy , the risk of a child dying from his or her allergy would be 1 in 800,000 a year.
They conclude, "the finding of so few deaths in such a large population should reassure parents and doctors that the risk of death is small"
This is particularly important for the children under the age of ten, they say , in whom the risk is even smaller, and many of whom grow out of their allergic responses.

Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2002 - 10:52pm
Caterina2's picture
Joined: 02/14/2001 - 09:00

How can food allergies be blown out of porportion when there is risk of death, no matter how small the risk is. I am in no way reassured because the risk of death is small. What do they mean "being blow out of porportion". Does this mean we don't have to be as diligent in checking foods and fighting for stricter policies in our schools because the risk of death is small. The fact is the risk of death is there. Perhaps the numbers of death are small, accordng to this article, because we have become more educated about food allergies and more informed on manufacturing processes and thus exposures to allergens have considerably reduced.
[This message has been edited by Caterina2 (edited March 26, 2002).]

Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2002 - 10:59pm
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

The same study was reported in the Globe and Mail. Firstly it only applies to Ireland and the UK, secondly, I'd like to know where the data came from, thirdly, I'd like to know who commissioned the study, and fourthly, why 2 large Canadian newspapers are reporting on a 3rd rate study that doesn't even apply to Canada or North America.

Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2002 - 11:40am
AlwaysAvoidAnaphylaxis's picture
Joined: 06/23/2001 - 09:00

FAAN is going to reply to this poorly written article.

Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2002 - 12:36am
williamsmummy's picture
Joined: 03/26/2002 - 09:00

i do find your responses rather , erm, strong.
Does it matter what country the study was done? our children are allergic to the same common foods !
However , I must admit a feeling that the small numbers of children suffering severe allergic reactions indicates that parents are perhaps better informed on how to avoid contact with allergens with their children.
It also points out something which has been proved by other studys , that children with asthma are more at risk of anaphylaxis, and again ,that children are more at risk during the teenage years , which mark a begining of a move away from parental responsibilty.
If the numbers of death are low , is that too a reflection of the good medical care with the good ole NHS?
Or maybe we should just take the figures at face value, that for all our very real worrys that our children may be at less of a risk than previously thought?
There is a strong feeling over here that epi-pens are being over prescribed, but because of lack of research ,we, as parents are in a catch 22 situation. There are no ganrentees in life , we will all die, i for one have epi-pens for my son. It was our choice, givern the information we have learned over the years. I do not have any problem with other parents choice not to have epi-pens avaliable.
Do not throw scorn on any reasearch that you FEEL is incorrect, wait and see how other reasearch bears out the true facts.
For me personally it reasures me that , I am doing the correct thing with my son, and gives me a little hope that peanut allergy is not such a common killer after all.

Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2002 - 1:24am
KarenT's picture
Joined: 10/30/1999 - 09:00

Could the reason why such a small number of children have died be due to the fact that parents are more educated about the allergy? Are we taking more steps to ensure the safety of our children than parents 10 years ago because of the education and resources available to us?

Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2002 - 1:55am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

I think the 'issue' here is the part of the article that states "The finding of so few deaths in such a large population should reassure parents and doctors that the risk of death is small."
It's not any different than it was before. The risk of death is still the same. Just because fewer people may be dying from it doesn't mean that the allergy isn't as life-threatening anymore. As others have pointed out, the decrease (if there really has been a decrease) in deaths from PA is probably attributed to people being better educated and prepared to deal with it now.
I think the article would have gone over better if mention had been made about how serious the allergy STILL is, how many MORE people are dealing with it now, and HOW these people deal with it.
I'm afraid that some people may read this article and think we're all over-reacting about our children because "the risk of death is small." Totally wrong.

Posted on: Fri, 03/29/2002 - 5:28pm
erik's picture
Joined: 05/15/2001 - 09:00

Yes, I think the reason less people would die from peanut allergies today is:
1) better labels
2) people more careful, knowledgeable (ie: peanut free classrooms,etc)
I used to eat products like Nestle Crunch since there was no warning on the label. Now there is a warning so I don't eat it. So my odds of an allergic reaction have diminished.
The article should have mentioned that it is for reasons such as this that less people are dying. The labels, precautions, and increased knowledge .....
Let's hope the article doesn't make people think we don't need good labels, peanut-free classrooms, good manufacturing processes, etc by making them think that peanuts pose no risk to PA individuals.

Posted on: Sat, 03/30/2002 - 3:36am
JoannaG's picture
Joined: 04/24/2001 - 09:00

Here is a response from Anaphylaxis Canada, published in the National Post on March 29:
Food allergy concern not overblown
I challenge the Canadian relevance of a recent British study of food allergy related deaths in children and want to give a Canadian perspective (Food Allergies are Being Blown Way Out of Proportion, New Research Suggests, March 25).
The British study found that eight children had died over a 10-year period in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Four deaths were caused by milk. Peanuts or nuts did not seem to play a significant role even in nonfatal reactions.
In a similar Ontario study, we found that 11 of 32 food allergy deaths occurred in children (1986-2000). Unlike the British study, peanuts or nuts caused 10 of the 11 deaths. There were no documented pediatric deaths from milk.
Further, the peak age for food-related anaphylaxis death in Ontario was between 15 and 30 years of age. This group was excluded from the British survey.
Given population differences, the lower British/Irish death rate, particularly for peanut/nut, is surprising. This might have to do with the design of the study and the data captured. It could also reflect true differences. Peanut butter, for example, is less popular in Britain. Six deaths occurred in an Ontario school or camp.
Fortunately, there has not been one death in an Ontario camp or school since 1994; perhaps a testament to the effectiveness of educational campaigns.
It would be erroneous, therefore, to suggest that food allergies are being "blown out of proportion." For someone living with a potentially life-threatening food allergy, the risk of death may be relatively low. But death from anaphylaxis can be prevented, making even one death unacceptable.
Parents should be reassured that, provided they follow current, recommended guidelines, their children will be well protected. Young children, in particular, must be able to rely on the support and protection of their community.
Because teens and young adults appear to be at greatest risk, early childhood is the key time to prepare children for the more challenging years ahead.
Dr. Jane Salter, president, Anaphylaxis Canada, Toronto.


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