Treatment For Severe Allergic Reactions May Be Lacking

A survey sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America looked into the treatment recommended by primary care and emergency physicians for anaphylaxis. The survey identified “likely deficiencies” in the knowledge of how to treat the condition and keep it from recurring. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that reaches life-threatening severity. It sets on quickly, generally within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. If not treated quickly, it often leads to unconsciousness and even death.

In interviews with 318 doctors, the surveyors found that a substantial number of them do not give epinephrine and do not refer the patients for follow-up care. According to allergy societies such as the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there are three steps to properly caring for a patient exhibiting anaphylaxis: administer epinephrine within 30 minutes, prescribe auto-injectors at discharge, and refer the patient to an allergist or immunologist for follow-up care. This survey supported a previous study that indicated only 15 percent of anaphylaxis cases are treated with those three recommended items.

Among the doctors in the study, allergists had the highest percentage of epinephrine use, ordering it in 97 percent of cases where the patient appeared to be having an anaphylaxis reaction. Roughly 10 percent of emergency room doctors said they had treated such cases with something other than epinephrine, and 20 percent of primary care and pediatric physicians had tried something else. These numbers were disturbing because, according to national guidelines, there are no absolute contraindications to epinephrine use.

Bee stings and peanuts are among the most common causes for anaphylaxis. Patients who know they suffer from such allergies are recommended to have epinephrine with them at all times. For people who do not know they have such severe allergies, it is vital that medical personnel understand how to treat this reaction quickly and effectively.

Source: Medpage Today, “Survey: Docs’ Anaphylaxis Care Deficient,” by John Gever, 12 November 2012

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