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Food Allergies Less Deadly Than Accidents

A fatal allergic reaction is a dramatic event, often involving a young person, so it naturally attracts attention. But that attention itself may lead people to overestimate the risk.

In fact, a new study finds, people with food allergies have far less chance of dying from such a reaction than from an accident.

The analysis, published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, reviewed 13 studies and conference abstracts describing 240 fatal “food anaphylaxis episodes” from 1946 to 2012. In people with food allergies, the death rate from anaphylaxis was 1.81 per million per year; in those younger than 19, the rate was 3.25 per million, and in those with peanut allergies, it was 4.25 per million.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of death by accident is 399 per million per year, the murder rate is 53 in a million, the risk of being fatally shot is 36 in a million, and the chance of dying in a car accident is 109 in a million.

“It’s a matter of not letting food allergy rule your or your child’s life,” said the senior author, Dr. Robert J. Boyle, a pediatric allergy specialist at Imperial College London. “The risk is surprisingly low. You still have to take precautions, but I think it’s important to see it in context.”