Food allergies linked to more ER trips

Unlike 100 million emergency room visits that aren't necessarily justified, one classic ER visit trigger is more common than previously thought.

About 200,000 ER trips each year are due to allergic reactions to food, according to an analysis of visits between 2001 and 2005 that was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Of those visits, about 90,000 visits are for anaphylaxis, the potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, Reuters Health reports.

That's three times the 30,000 a year often quoted as the number of times Americans are sent to the ER for food-triggered anaphylaxis.

"While severe, life-threatening food-related allergic reactions are still relatively uncommon, our study suggests that they are more common than previously thought," lead investigator Sunday Clark, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, told Reuters Health in an email.

Clark's team used different data sources from earlier analyses--including an annual government survey of hospitals and two recent medical studies--to estimate the number of ER visits for food allergies. Still, it's likely that more Americans have headed to the ER due to reactions to food in recent years, she said.

Her findings are consistent with estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that three million school-aged children in the U.S. had a food allergy in 2007, up 18 percent from 10 years earlier.

To learn more:
- read the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology abstract (reg. required)
- read the Reuters Health article