Allergy experts have put pressure on the government to develop an anaphylaxis register to help mitigate Australia’s growing allergy crisis.
Food allergies are estimated to affect 1-2 per cent of adults, 4-8 per cent of children under the age of five and about 10 per cent of children under the age of one.
Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia health educator Jody Aiken said Australia has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the world—life threatening food allergy rates have doubled in ten years and allergy deaths have increased by 42 per cent over six years.
Ms Aiken said an anaphylaxis register would help to understand the numbers of anaphylaxis that was occurring in Australia.
“It would also help to remove foods that are on the market that are potentially life threatening to people with food allergies if they’re incorrectly labelled,” she said.
“And it would help to educate food services that are making mistakes and serving foods that include their allergens to people that have declared their food allergies.”
Curtin University Early Childhood Centre director Karen Nicholls said they were very conscious and conscientious about serious food allergies at their childcare centre.
“If [children] have actual food allergies we require it to be written by a doctor or a paediatrician or somebody with dietary expertise and we follow the process given to us by those experts,” she said.
“We also have signage around the school to indicate that those children have a particular allergy and what that allergy might be.”
A recent anaphylactic case involved a Perth child care centre where a two-year-old was given a full bottle of milk, prompting an anaphylactic reaction to dairy.
It was reported the day care had been informed of the allergy but didn’t administer his EpiPen, and it took three shots of adrenaline from paramedics to save his life.
Another incident happened at the same day care centre three months later, when the child was given cheese sauce and went into shock again.
Ms Aiken said we don’t always hear about these cases and parents don’t always speak up.
“If we had a register it would mean that the childcare centre that served a child an allergen would be automatically investigated,” she said.
“That would certainly help other parents if investigation and education happened and processes and policies were changed to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
The call for an anaphylaxis register came from a coroner’s inquest in Victoria, according to Ms Aiken.
“They record anaphylaxis that present to emergency departments in Victoria now,” she said.
“It was the result of a little boy who died in Victoria as a result of a coconut drink that was incorrectly labelled, his name was Ronak Warty.
“There’s been over 1183 cases of anaphylaxis present to emergency in Victoria alone since November last year when the register was started.”
Ms Aiken said Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia put together a petition to prompt the government to sign up to 20 million dollars for the National Allergy Strategy.
“What we’d like to see is a shared care model for allergy in Australia, so that people, especially in remote and regional areas of Australia, get adequate and optimal allergy care,” she said.
“At the moment there is not enough allergy specialists, so a shared care model would hopefully improve allergy care for people in Australia.”
May is Food Allergy Awareness month and Australia is set to raise awareness through the ‘Turn it Teal’ initiative, where many buildings and bridges around the world will be lit up in teal — the colour associated with food allergy awareness.
TRIGGER Food Allergy Awareness founder Grace Farah said the initiative started a conversation and raised food allergy awareness.
“It also shows our children and families dealing with food allergies every day that Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth care … Australia cares,” she said.
Perth’s own Trafalgar Bridge will be lit teal on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 May, and other participating Australian cities include Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.