New study shows how to speed up diagnosis and treatment of food allergies

A study led by Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has shown that children with food allergies are seen 10 months sooner and have fewer allergic reactions when treated by a paediatrician in their own community.

The study was responding to waiting list times of around 18 months for evaluation of possible simple food allergies in children via hospital-based Allergy Clinics.

The study was the first to evaluate a community-based approach, which saw specialised allergy training being given to general paediatricians working in community clinics. The front-line allergy treatment and management advice offered by these trained community-based paediatricians was then compared with that offered via specialist allergy clinics. The trial involved children aged 0-12 years with three or fewer suspected food allergies while those with suspected anaphylaxis or more than three food allergies were excluded.

Of those treated by the trained community-based paediatricians, 63 per cent were treated without needing an allergist referral. Average time on the waiting list was 2.4 months for a community paediatrician compared to 12 months for a hospital allergist. These findings have significant implications for hospital resources, and follow-up surveys found the community-based care model was also more acceptable to families.

Based on these results, the trial team is calling for investment in a larger program to train community paediatricians, especially in regions where there are no child allergy specialists.

Reference: Hiscock et al.2019. Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. DOI: 10.1111/all.14105

See the MCRI media release and an ABC radio interview with lead author Professor Harriet Hiscock for additional reporting.