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Medicines Are Biggest Culprit in Fatal Allergic Reactions

Antibiotics, contrast material for scans lead the list of triggers

Medicines Are Biggest Culprit in Fatal Allergic Reactions

FRIDAY, Oct. 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Over half of allergy-related deaths are caused by medications, while less than 7 percent are caused by food allergies, according to research published online Sept. 30 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Elina Jerschow, M.D., director of the Drug Allergy Center at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues analyzed death certificates from the U.S. National Mortality Data Base from 1999 to 2010. The researchers found 2,458 deaths related to anaphylaxis, and sought to determine what caused the reaction.

The researchers found that the most common cause was medication, which was implicated in 58.8 percent of the deaths. The drug that caused the reaction wasn't identified in 75 percent of the deaths. When the responsible drug was identified, it was an antibiotic in 40 percent of the cases. The next most common allergy-inducing drugs were radiocontrast agents, followed by chemotherapy medications.

About 19 percent of death certificates did not specify a cause. Food accounted for 6.7 percent of deaths. Another 15.2 percent of deaths were due to venom from an insect bite or sting. Those most at risk of having a fatal anaphylactic reaction were older adults and blacks.

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