‘It was terrifying’: ER visits for anaphylaxis up 95% in 7 years

WATCH ABOVE: Visits to the ER for anaphylaxis is up 95 per cent in the last seven years. And as Candace Daniel reports, one mother recalls the life-threatening reaction her then 5-month-old baby had when she fed him rice cereal.

Pauline Osena’s son Lucien was only five months old when he had his first life-threatening reaction. She was unaware her baby suffered from a food allergy.

“You realize that you almost lost your son,” Osena told Global News fighting back tears. “Thinking back on that day…it’s still really hard.”

She was feeding Lucien rice cereal for the first time, and was unaware it contained skim milk powder. Lucien started vomiting, his face swelled, and Pauline rushed him to the hospital.

“I ran in and yelled, my 5-month-old is having an allergic reaction,” said Osena. “They saved his life.”

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In the hospital Lucien was diagnosed with a milk allergy. Lucien is now four years old, and since that first reaction he has been rushed to the emergency room two more times for new allergies and severe reactions.

Lucien in the hospital after an anaphylaxis reaction. Pauline Osena

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released new data that shows the number of visits to emergency room departments for anaphylaxis in Ontario and Alberta has risen 95 per cent over a seven-year period.

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The reason for the rise is unclear, but increased public and clinical awareness and a specific definition of what anaphylaxis is could be contributors.

“This has been a period of increased awareness. It’s possible that people have been going to the emergency department when they maybe would not have before,” Keith Denny with CIHI told Global News. “Anaphylaxis is being recognized and documented perhaps more than it was in the past. We don’t know for sure but it’s possibly a combination of perhaps an increasing prevalence and awareness. ”

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Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction that can lead to death. According to Food Allergy Canada, 2.5 million Canadians suffer from a food allergy.

READ MORE: What you need to know about anaphylaxis

The CIHI data also shows a 64 per cent increase in the number of prescriptions for epinephrine auto-injectors. Epinephrine is used to treat severe allergic reactions, it also gives a person the time required to seek medical attention.

Beatrice Povolo from Food Allergy Canada told Global News, “It’s good to see that more people are getting a [prescription] for an auto-injector and filling it, which means they are carrying a device which will help protect them in case of an emergency.”
Pauline Osena and her children. Pauline Osena

For Osena, her son Lucien’s food allergies have changed her life. He has been diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, peanut and tree nuts.

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Now pregnant with her third child, she writes a blog hoping to educate other parents about family life with severe food allergies.

“New parents need to be more aware,” said Osena. “I had no understanding of food allergies at all.”

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