We sought to establish the frequency of receiving >1 dose of epinephrine in children who present to the emergency department (ED) with food-related anaphylaxis.
We performed a medical chart review at Boston hospitals of all children presenting to the ED for food-related acute allergic reactions between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2006. We focused on causative foods, clinical presentations, and emergency treatments.
Through random sampling and appropriate weighting, the 605 reviewed cases represented a study cohort of 1255 patients. These patients had a median age of 5.8 years (95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.3–6.3), and the cohort was 62% male. A variety of foods provoked the allergic reactions, including peanuts (23%), tree nuts (18%), and milk (15%). Approximately half (52% [95% CI: 48–57]) of the children met diagnostic criteria for food-related anaphylaxis. Among those with anaphylaxis, 31% received 1 dose and 3% received >1 dose of epinephrine before their arrival to the ED. In the ED, patients with anaphylaxis received antihistamines (59%), corticosteroids (57%), epinephrine (20%). Over the course of their reaction, 44% of patients with food-related anaphylaxis received epinephrine, and among this subset of patients, 12% (95% CI: 9–14) received >1 dose. Risk factors for repeat epinephrine use included older age and transfer from an outside hospital. Most patients (88%) were discharged from the hospital. On ED discharge, 43% were prescribed self-injectable epinephrine, and only 22% were referred to an allergist.
Among children with food-related anaphylaxis who received epinephrine, 12% received a second dose. Results of this study support the recommendation that children at risk for food-related anaphylaxis carry 2 doses of epinephrine.