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Allergy Today: Walking the Allergy Tightrope

The Australian Parliamentary Report into allergies and anaphylaxis, published in May 2020, described living with allergies as having to ‘walk a tightrope every day’. Mark Dixon, Allergy New Zealand’s CEO, says “this description undoubtedly resonates with the thousands of Kiwis living with severe and complex allergies, with similar issues here.” scott-graham-OQMZwNd3ThU-unsplash-163-358

Overall, the report found increasing prevalence and associated hardship, essentially no cure, and long waiting lists for patients to see allergy specialists.

The enquiry was set up in 2019 by the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, in response to concerns expressed by parents, individuals and organisations such as the Australian National Allergy Strategy, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), Centre for Food Allergy Research, and Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia. It was conducted by the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport (the Committee).

The Committee invited written and oral submissions from which it reviewed the prevalence and treatment of allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia, and, more specifically, examined:

  • An overview of allergies and anaphylaxis, including food and drug allergy, and other allergic diseases such as eczema and allergic rhinitis;
  • The management and treatment of allergies and anaphylaxis, including topics such as food labelling and food service, access to adrenaline auto-injectors, and access to medical services for allergy and anaphylaxis sufferers;
  • Research into possible causes of allergy, and emerging treatments and therapies, including research into food based oral immunotherapy.

Their report describes allergic disease in Australia as a significant public health issue and makes a range of recommendations to the Federal Government, including:

1. To establish a National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis in Australia, to ensure there is a national, standardised approach to allergy management.

2. To dedicate additional funding into food allergies and anaphylaxis research, in particular, funding for research into:

  • Food allergy treatments (including allergies outside of peanut allergy) in particular into food based oral immunotherapy, including head-to-head trials (trials with no placebo);
  • Emerging allergic diseases such as eosinophilic oesophagitis and food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES);
  • The social and psychological effects of allergies and anaphylaxis;
  • Establishing a national register for anaphylactic episodes and death.

3. To consider providing a healthcare card to people with severe and chronic allergic conditions and a carers allowance for their carers where appropriate.

These and other recommendations can be seen in the report on:

https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/reportrep/024422/toc_pdf/Walkingtheallergytightrope.pdf;fileType=application/pdf

Mark has extended his congratulations to Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia for their work to get the enquiry set up, and their contribution to it. “They have been very helpful in sharing their ideas and experiences,” he says. “We are in discussion with ASCIA, our New Zealand clinical network, and other key stakeholders, to develop a plan for New Zealand, for which the Australian report will be extremely helpful.”

Penny Jorgensen

Allergy Advisor

Allergy New Zealand.