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Allergist at NBIMC Educates the Community about Life-Threatening Allergic Reactions

Joel Mendelson, MD, Director of Allergy and Immunology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, is joining the cause to educate families about the dangers of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening type of allergic reaction.

To inform communities about anaphylaxis, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and the Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) have partnered to bring the Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) educational program to 150 local communities throughout the U.S.

For this program, Dr. Mendelson is paired with Allison Inserro, a Middlesex County mother of a 7-year-old son with severe, multiple food allergies, and together they provide educational talks to groups in many locations, from day care centers to schools to local fire departments.

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Anaphylaxis is an allergic, rapid onset, potentially life-threatening whole-body reaction that can happen to any person at any time but is more commonly experienced among people with risk factors. The affected person may experience cardiovascular shock and/or serious respiratory compromise.

 “Most fatalities from anaphylaxis occur outside the home when treatment is delayed,” says Dr. Mendelson. “Our goal is to provide education about the causes of anaphylaxis and the need for appropriate assessment and treatment to save lives.”

Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, and more children in the U.S. are developing food allergies. The number of children with food allergies went up 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 million children younger than 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007, the CDC said.

In December 2010, a 13-year-old Chicago student died after she suffered a severe allergic reaction to food she ate at her Northwest Side school. An autopsy found that the student died from anaphylaxis.

 “Deaths from anaphylaxis are doubly tragic because they are often preventable,” said Ms. Inserro, whose son, allergic to dairy, egg, wheat, peanuts, and other foods, has received emergency treatment for anaphylaxis several times. “Knowing how to both prevent and respond to an anaphylactic emergency is the key to managing this condition,” she added.

There are three major risk factors for fatal anaphylaxis:

  • Allergic reaction to food, stinging insects or medicines
  • Presence of asthma
  • Delay in administration of epinephrine

“Every child at risk should have an anaphylaxis action plan on file with all schools and caregivers,” relates Dr. Mendelson. “The plan should include symptoms and what treatment to do in order of importance.”

The ACE program will be presented in 150 communities to interested audiences by teams of local allergists and laypersons. ACE program objectives are to:

  • Help patients, families, and healthcare professionals to identify who is at risk, and recognize signs and symptoms of life-threatening allergic reactions.
  • Recommend that the auto-injectable epinephrine, the first line of treatment, be administered immediately once the symptoms have been identified.
  • Develop prevention models that promote identification and avoidance of allergens and encourage patients with history of anaphylaxis to be seen annually by an allergy specialist.
  • Provide an Anaphylaxis Action Plan to patients who are at risk of anaphylaxis.

For more information on asthma and allergies, please call Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s referral line at 1.888.724.7123.

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