Fatalities due to anaphylactic reactions to foods

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Jan;107(1):191-3. doi: 10.1067/mai.2001.112031.


Fatal anaphylactic reactions to foods are continuing to occur, and better characterization might lead to better prevention. The objective of this report is to document the ongoing deaths and characterize these fatalities. We analyzed 32 fatal cases reported to a national registry, which was established by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, with the assistance of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, and for which adequate data could be collected. Data were collected from multiple sources including a structured questionnaire, which was used to determine the cause of death and associated factors. The 32 individuals could be divided into 2 groups. Group 1 had sufficient data to identify peanut as the responsible food in 14 (67%) and tree nuts in 7 (33%) of cases. In group 2 subjects, 6 (55%) of the fatalities were probably due to peanut, 3 (27%) to tree nuts, and the other 2 cases were probably due to milk and fish (1 [9%] each). The sexes were equally affected; most victims were adolescents or young adults, and all but 1 subject were known to have food allergy before the fatal event. In those subjects for whom data were available, all but 1 was known to have asthma, and most of these individuals did not have epinephrine available at the time of their fatal reaction. Fatalities due to ingestion of allergenic foods in susceptible individuals remain a major health problem. In this series, peanuts and tree nuts accounted for more than 90% of the fatalities. Improved education of the profession, allergic individuals, and the public will be necessary to stop these tragedies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anaphylaxis / etiology*
  • Anaphylaxis / mortality*
  • Arachis / adverse effects
  • Arachis / immunology
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nuts / adverse effects
  • Nuts / immunology