New research suggests adolescents with food allergies are experiencing frequent allergic reactions, most of which are happening at home.

Around 40 per cent of Australians aged 10 to 14 with food allergies experience frequent allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, according to the study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI).

The MCRI’s SchoolNuts study involving 10,000 students found that among the 547 with a food allergy:

  • 50 per cent had experienced an allergic reaction in the past year
  • almost 10 per cent reported potentially life threatening anaphylactic reactions
  • reactions occur most commonly in the home

The finding that reactions occur most commonly in the home was surprising to researchers.

“This is in contrast to the assumption that schools and restaurants pose higher risk for accidental allergen exposure and may reflect the compulsory training around food allergy that has been in place in the Victorian educational sector since 2008,” said lead author Vicki McWilliam.

The study is in line with other research showing that peanut and tree nuts are the most common trigger foods for reactions, and those with nut allergy are most at risk of severe reactions.

Factors representative such as an adrenalin auto-injector carriage patterns, higher risk of accidental allergen exposure through knowingly eating the food the student was allergic to, or eating foods labelled with precautionary allergen labelling such as “may contain traces of”, were not found to be associated with increased risk of reactions.

Those with asthma and more than two food allergies were at greatest risk for adverse food reactions. Those with nut allergies were most at risk of severe reactions.

“This study highlights the alarming frequency of adverse food reactions among adolescents and the need for specific management and education strategies aimed at allergen avoidance in this high-risk age group,” Professor Katie Allen said.

The full study is accessible here.