ER visits for potentially fatal anaphylaxis doubled in 7 years: report

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TORONTO — A new report suggests the number of Canadians who visited hospital emergency rooms for anaphylaxis doubled in the last seven years.

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is potentially fatal without quick treatment.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information says the number of ER visits for anaphylaxis rose to almost 6,500 in 2013-14, up from about 3,100 in 2006-07, with the biggest jump among teens aged 13 to 17.

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The report also says that during that period, the dispensing rate for prescription epinephrine auto-injectors rose by 64 per cent.

Children age four and younger had the highest annual rate of ER visits for allergic reactions, primarily related to food or from unspecified sources.

Visits for anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions were highest in the summer months, with food-related allergies also spiking in December.

“Our data indicates that hospital visits for allergic reactions increase during times of the year when people may not be in their regular routines,” said Kathleen Morris, CIHI’s vice-president of research and analysis.

“Visits for insect stings and snake bites spike in the summer months, and food-related reactions are slightly higher during the winter holiday season when many Canadians attend holiday parties.”

About one per cent of all ER visits each year are attributed to allergic reactions.

In 2013–14, this represented more than 85,000 visits in Ontario and Alberta alone. CIHI extrapolated these numbers to all of Canada and determined there were approximately 170,000 allergy-related hospital visits in 2013–2014. Anaphylaxis was the reason behind about eight per cent of all visits for allergic reactions.

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