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Food Allergies

Reaction Readiness Lacking

Most Canadians with life-threatening allergies are not carrying the life-saving drug epinephrine with them. In addition to that worrying trend, a national survey reveals that a majority of Canadians would not know what to do if faced with a person having a serious allergic reaction.

The survey of 1,500 Canadians, released in late August, was commissioned by King Pharma, the makers of the EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector, in collaboration with Anaphylaxis Canada. “For those individuals who know they are at risk, it’s essential that they follow the advice of their physician and carry their auto-injector at all times and know how to use it,” said Laurie Harada, executive director of Anaphylaxis Canada. “People have died due to a delay in getting epinephrine during an allergic reaction.”

The survey, carried out by Leger Marketing OmniCan, was based on interviews with a random selection of households. What emerges are some revealing facts about those living with and without allergies. For instance, only 27 per cent knew the term “anaphylaxis.”

The better news is that when it was explained to be the life-threatening form of allergic reaction to a food, insect sting or drug, 97 per cent were aware that such a reaction could be deadly. Still, fewer than half of those surveyed would know what to do in the event that someone was having a serious allergic reaction.

“Understanding how to recognize the symptoms of a reaction and what to do in an emergency situation is key,” said Harada, stressing the need for increased training. Awareness also appears to be lacking that there are 10 priority food allergens; 75 per cent of respondents did not appreciate that a reaction to milk could be as serious as one to peanuts.

However, there is a trend of support for the food allergic. A majority in the survey backed: school anaphylaxis laws; a ban on peanuts in schools; and requiring restaurants to list ingredients on menu items and to have an auto-injector on hand.

Canadian Views

• In the study, only 27% knew what the word “anaphylaxis” means.

• However, 97% were aware that an allergic reaction can be fatal.

• Only 45% would know what to do in the event of an anaphylactic reaction.

The figure dipped to 36% among those aged 18 to 25.

• 4 out of 5 who have had an anaphylactic reaction (or have a member of

their household who has had one) did not carry an auto-injector.

• 4 in 10 wrongly believed that a first allergic reaction won’t likely be severe

enough to require hospital treatment.

• 55% wrongly assumed that children are more susceptible than adults

to severe allergic reactions.

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