Walking allergy tightrope

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee today released its report into allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia.

Allergic disease currently affects one in five Australians. Committee Chair Mr Trent Zimmerman MP says, “Australia has been called the ‘world’s allergy capital’ because of the high prevalence rates of allergies in Australia. And it’s on the rise.”

“It’s not a title any nation would aspire to because, while allergies can be mild for some people, for many others it can be both life threatening and extremely debilitating.

The cause of the increasing prevalence of allergies is not entirely clear but appears to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including our diet and also our reduced exposure to germs that strengthen our immune system at a young age,” Mr Zimmerman said.

The prevalence of allergies in Australia is concerning – not only are allergies a significant cause of stress for those living with them, and their families, but allergies have become a public health problem for Australia.

Allergic disease is varied and includes several different conditions such as food and drug allergies. However the list also includes atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, insect bite or sting allergies and latex allergy.

Mr Zimmerman stated “For many people who have severe food allergies, one error can result in serious illness or even death. Living with severe food allergies is like walking a tightrope every day.

With no cure yet, further research into allergies and anaphylaxis is critical. We need to understand what causes allergies and that will lead to better management, treatment and ultimately prevention.”

The report made 24 recommendations including the following:

  • Establishing a national centre for allergies and anaphylaxis to undertake research into current and emerging allergies and to set up a national register for anaphylaxis and drug allergy
  • Improving access to allergy specialists by reviewing the allergy and immunology workforce and providing telehealth support for patients in rural, regional and remote Australia
  • Standardising allergy care and management to improve the quality of patient care
  • Improving education and training in allergies and anaphylaxis for medical and health professionals
  • Improving the standards of food labelling, and
  • Financial assistance for people living with multiple and severe allergies.

The Committee received 257 submissions and held 7 public hearings across Australia. The Committee thanks individuals and organisations who generously gave their time to discuss this important issue.

The full report can be viewed on the Committee’s website.

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