Study reveals significant need, burden and psychosocial impact of peanut allergy

Study reveals significant need, burden and psychosocial impact of peanut allergy

  • 02 June 2020
  • News

The largest European quantitative study on peanut allergy has highlighted varying levels of effective disease management between countries, as well as the associated feelings of uncertainty, stress and isolation experienced by those with peanut allergy and their caregivers.

APPEAL-1 (Allergy to Peanuts imPacting Emotions And Life-1), a multi-dimensional pan-European study assessing the psychosocial effect and impact of living with peanut allergy, took place across eight European countries. Country specific data showed that more than half (52%) of UK respondents report being bullied about their peanut allergy.

Aimmune Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing treatments for life-threatening food allergies, announced the findings last week, which were published in Allergy, one of the official journals of European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).

The study, published in two parts (Part A and Part B), highlights the substantial impact peanut allergy has on every aspect of allergic individuals’ and their caregivers’ lives, including the uncertainty they feel around how to manage frightening and debilitating reactions and concerns about the feasibility of ongoing peanut avoidance.

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, which affect over 17 million people in Europe. The prevalence of peanut allergy in Europe has doubled between 2005 and 2015, and around two-thirds of schools in Europe currently have at least one child at risk of anaphylaxis. Reactions to peanut are potentially life-threatening, accounting for the majority of deaths related to food allergy.

APPEAL-1 is the first and largest quantitative study to validate and bring attention to the significant burden and psychosocial impact with which allergic individuals and their caregivers are challenged in their daily lives. The findings illustrate the impact of living with the condition, and how attempting to avoid peanuts every day can be a major source of stress, fear and anxiety, clouded by the persistent worry of accidental exposure for both the allergic individual and their caregiver. The data also demonstrate that across Europe there is insufficient education for coping and living with the disease and the management of reactions. Ambiguity over how to use rescue medicine (Adrenaline Auto-Injector; AAI) and the potential trauma of necessitating its use is an additional burden that people with peanut allergy currently face.

“Our findings show that those living with peanut allergy face many uncertainties and restrictions on their daily activities, in addition to constant feelings of frustration, anxiety, stress, isolation, and uncertainty in their everyday lives,” said Audrey DunnGalvin, Ph.D., a lead investigator on the APPEAL-1 study and a lecturer in the School of Applied Psychology at University College Cork in, Ireland.

“The findings also reveal the disparity across European countries and an urgent need for greater support, improved management, and education for both peanut-allergic people and the general public to help improve living with and managing peanut allergy.”

The Part A data gave an insight into the experience of those with peanut allergy related to their reactions and disease management. Of the 1,300 respondents, only 24% had received training on what to in an emergency. Of those that had been prescribed an AAI, only a third had received training on how to use it.

The Part B data showed the impact on individuals’ freedom of choice in daily activities; feelings and emotions; impacts of bullying, and their ability to cope with peanut allergy. Of the 1,846 survey respondents:

  • 90% report feeling frustrated and stressed, with over a third having frequent feelings of anxiety
  • 65% report feelings of isolation and 43% report experiencing bullying
  • 89% report feeling restricted on where to eat out and 84% feel limited on buying food.

“The study provides essential insight and data on peanut allergy comorbidities, severity of reactions, management, and suggests a widespread need in Europe for improved quality of peanut allergy health management and education”, said Daniel Adelman, Chief Medical Officer of Aimmune.

“These findings represent the largest quantitative data set to date and, importantly, deepen our knowledge and understanding of the impact of peanut allergy on everyday lives, further providing some signposts for clinicians and policymakers on significant needs among these patients that need to be addressed.”

Commenting on the findings, Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said, “These findings highlight the need for improvements in allergy care and psychosocial support for those affected by peanut allergy. As the UK’s only charity operating solely for those affected by severe allergies and anaphylaxis, we have long understood the importance of raising awareness and improving training, education and support in allergy management and services. This study provides valuable insights which will help to inform our future work.”

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