Emergency admissions for severe allergies up by a quarter in 10 years

The number of emergency hospital admissions due to severe allergies has increased by 25 per cent in 10 years, according to figures at Ghent’s university hospital, De Morgen reports on Tuesday. Allergies are increasing among young people in particular.

“Year after year, we see a steady increase in the number of emergency admissions due to allergies,” says Peter De Paepe, head of the casualty department at UZ Gent. “They’re not all equally serious. But it is something we have to take into account as an emergency department. If it’s anaphylaxis, you have to intervene immediately or the patient may go into cardiac or respiratory arrest.”

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction where the mucous membranes swell and the patient develops breathing or blood circulation problems. In hospital, this is usually treated with an injection of adrenaline, which reduces the swelling and restores circulation. With recurrent allergic reactions, it can be administered at home using an EpiPen syringe.

"If it’s anaphylaxis, you have to intervene immediately or the patient may go into cardiac or respiratory arrest"

An investigation by De Morgen shows that several hospitals are seeing a rising trend, though there are no national or regional figures available. Figures are kept in the UK, however, where the National Health Service reports that 25,000 people go to hospital every year because of allergic reactions, more than twice as many as 20 years ago.

“The increase is mainly due to food allergies,” says Bart Lambrecht, director of the Centre for Inflammatory Diseases at research centre VIB. “According to skin tests on primary school children, today one in two children has an allergy, a sharp increase compared to 20 years ago.” However, most children are not affected, and only in a minority are such allergies dangerous.


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