Anaphylaxis in the young adult population

Am J Med. 2014 Jan;127(1 Suppl):S17-24. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.09.010. Epub 2013 Oct 1.


It is critical that clinicians treating young adults understand the presentation and management of anaphylaxis. The most common trigger for anaphylaxis in this population is food. The prevalence of food allergy is growing, with 8% of US children and adolescents affected. All patients at risk for anaphylaxis should be prescribed epinephrine autoinjectors, as epinephrine is the only life-saving medication for a severe anaphylactic reaction. The presentation of anaphylaxis can involve multiple organ systems (eg, mucocutaneous, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal) and, as such, patient education is needed to assist in prompt recognition. Appropriate training of patients and caregivers about how to identify anaphylaxis and what to do in an emergency is critical. Training of school and college staff also is essential, as 1 in 4 first-time reactions occurs outside the home. Additional counseling for adolescents at risk for anaphylactic reactions should address increased risk-taking behavior, decreased adult supervision, dating, and the transition of disease management from an adult to the patient.

Keywords: Adolescents; Allergy; Anaphylaxis; Children; Epinephrine; Risk-taking behavior; School safety; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Adult
  • Anaphylaxis* / drug therapy
  • Anaphylaxis* / economics
  • Anaphylaxis* / epidemiology
  • Anaphylaxis* / etiology
  • Anaphylaxis* / physiopathology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Child
  • Directive Counseling* / standards
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Epinephrine / administration & dosage*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular / instrumentation*
  • Insect Bites and Stings / complications
  • Patient Education as Topic* / standards
  • Prevalence
  • Risk-Taking
  • Safety / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Schools / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Self Administration / instrumentation*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Epinephrine