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ER Care Not Always Appropriate

Monitor / ALLERGIC REACTIONS

March 26, 2001|Shari Roan

It's bad enough when a whiff of peanuts causes some people to break out in hives and struggle to breathe. Now it turns out that people who have allergic reactions to particular foods don't always get appropriate care in hospital emergency rooms.

A study presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reviewed the hospital records of 112 patients with clear cases of allergic reactions to food. The analysis, by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, showed that 77% of the reactions were treated with antihistamines, 50% with systemic corticosteroids, 19% with epinephrine and 2% with other systemic beta-agonists.

The correct treatment is epinephrine, according to academy guidelines. In addition, emergency-room patients should be taught about self-administration with epinephrine for future reactions and should be referred to an allergist for follow-up care. Only 11% of the patients studied were sent home with a prescription for self-injectable epinephrine.

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