The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) surveyed physician groups regarding knowledge and attitudes towards anaphylaxis. The survey’s results were summarized in a letter to the editor published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology this month.
The letter, titled Anaphylaxis in America: A National Physician Survey, based on AAFA’s study of the same name, provided an in-depth look at the experience with and knowledge of anaphylaxis among five physician groups: allergy/immunology specialists (50 percent with pediatric and 50 percent with internal medicine training), emergency physicians, family practitioners, and pediatricians.
“Similar to our surveys of patients and the general public, this study clearly demonstrates the need for ongoing education regarding anaphylaxis,” says the letter (read it in its entirety here).
“One of the most alarming things we found is that, despite the common occurrence of anaphylaxis, too many physicians are unfamiliar with the professional guidelines for anaphylaxis,” says Mike Tringale, Senior Vice President at AAFA and one of the authors of the letter.
Study shows stark lack of knowledge among physicians
Although most physicians reported being very familiar with the term anaphylaxis (range, 89 to 100 percent across the five physician groups) and recognize that epinephrine is the recommended first-line treatment (81 to 93 percent), it is concerning that many physicians did not recognize some of the most common anaphylaxis symptoms, such as breathing problems, fainting, swelling and abdominal pain. When asked about possible symptoms of anaphylaxis, there were significant differences among the groups regarding cough (30 to 55 percent), skin reactions (26 to 54 percent) and abdominal pain (6 to 46 percent) as possible indicators.
Physicians were also unaware of the requirements food establishments and emergency vehicles had in regard to things such as having epinephrine on hand.
“It’s [also] concerning to see how much physicians’ perception of quality of life for anaphylaxis patients differs from the patients’ perception,” says Lynda Mitchell, Vice President at AAFA and Founder of Kids With Food Allergies (KFA), a division of AAFA. “We need to work even harder to ensure that physicians across these practices are better prepared to treat and care for patients at-risk for anaphylaxis.”