World-first allergy organisations launch to improve research, clinical care and save lives

31 August 2022:

National Allergy Council (NAC)  National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE)

In a major step towards addressing Australia’s allergy epidemic, the Hon. Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, alongside allergy experts will launch two critical health organisations in Melbourne today.

The National Allergy Council (NAC) and National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE) are backed by a $26.9 million Federal Government investment. The initiatives will help accelerate allergy research and clinical care to improve the lives of five million Australians living with allergic disease and prevent anaphylaxis, including needless deaths.

Assistant Minister Kearney said: “Serious allergies impact the lives of individuals and families in a massive way. That’s why this $26.9 million funding boost is so important. It’s so critical to bring together all of our nation’s peak allergy organisations, clinicians, researchers, policymakers and crucially, patients and carers.”

Maria Said AM, NAC Director and Co-chair, Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia CEO, said: “Allergic disease impacts significantly on a person’s health and wellbeing and can be life threatening. Allergy is among the fastest growing chronic conditions in Australia, affecting approximately 1 in 5 Australians.1 I can’t emphasise enough how the Government’s significant investment will transform the lives of these Australians through improved allergy research, clinical care, education, prevention and support.”

Dr Preeti Joshi, NAC Director and Co-chair, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) representative and paediatric clinical immunology and allergy specialist, said: “We know from our work and the House of Representatives’ Walking the allergy tightrope report, that it is critical we reduce the alarming trend of anaphylaxis rates and tragic deaths due to allergic disease. Establishing these organisations will ensure the findings from quality research will be implemented effectively to improve and save lives.”

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett Director, NACE and Group Leader, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, added: “Sadly, our country is considered the allergy capital of the world. As Australia’s leading allergy research body, we want to change that by expanding our evidence-base for the prevention and management of drug, food, respiratory and insect allergic disease. To do this, the NACE will oversee a Clinical Trials Network, a National Allergy Repository, an Evidence and Translation Centre, and training the next generation of allergy experts. I believe this national plan of action will have a life-changing impact.” 

Working together, the NAC and NACE will deliver:

  • A shared care program to significantly cut wait times to see a specialist by at least 50 per cent and improve access to quality allergy care for all Australians, especially in rural and remote areas
  • The digital infrastructure for a National Allergy Repository to facilitate precision medicine, allowing individualised allergy healthcare for children and adults. This would include a live anaphylaxis reporting system
  • A National Allergy Clinical Trials Network to provide Australians with accelerated access to safe and effective allergy treatments
  • Continued public health guidelines and prevention programs such as the successful food allergy prevention program ‘Nip allergies in the Bub’, which includes practical resources for parents and educational support for healthcare providers
  • New clinical and research capabilities to enable Australia to maintain its world-leading status in allergy research and to answer the most important questions in allergy that will guide the way forward to help decrease the burden on individuals, families, the healthcare system and the community at large.

The NAC is a natural progression of the successful National Allergy Strategy and will continue to be a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia. The Centre for Food & Allergy Research has expanded to become the NACE, which will generate and synthesise the evidence-base that underpins the activities of the NAC to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of evidence-based management of allergic disease.

Professor Michaela Lucas, President of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) concluded: “It is important the government has listened to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry. This funding will improve the health outcomes for patients with allergic disease and enable Australia’s allergy organisations to provide world leading allergy management and research.”

Read more: World-first allergy organisations launch to improve research, clinical care and save lives

Australia leading the world: Federal funding secured for allergy prevention and management

30 March 2022

Allergy experts have applauded the $26.9 million investment into allergy prevention and management announced in the Federal Government’s 2022 pre-election budget.

The funding will lead to the creation of two vital organisations, the National Allergy Council and National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE), that will work together to deliver world-leading initiatives and research to improve consumer safety and prevent anaphylaxis deaths.

“Australia has been termed the ‘allergy capital of the world’ with more than 5 million Australians living with allergic disease. Allergy diagnoses and hospital admissions for life-threatening allergic reactions continue to rise,” Maria Said, Co-Chair of the National Allergy Strategy and CEO of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia said.

“This funding will revolutionise Australian allergy research, clinical care, education, and prevention, solidifying us as a world leader in this space. Ultimately, we need to reduce the alarming trend of anaphylaxis rates and tragic deaths, prevent development of allergic disease, and more effectively manage allergies that affect 20 per cent of the community.”

Allergic diseases include food, medication and insect allergies, and allergic asthma and allergic rhinitis. Eczema is also associated with allergic disease. The funding is in response to the 2019 Parliamentary Inquiry into Allergies and Anaphylaxis and the 24 recommendations in the Walking the allergy tightrope report, which highlighted the critical need for further investment to address this continuing public health challenge.

Establishing a National Allergy Council (NAC) is a natural progression of the highly valued and successful National Allergy Strategy.  The National Allergy Council will continue to be a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA), the leading medical and patient support organisations for allergy in Australia.

The Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR) will expand to become the National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE). NACE will generate and synthesise the evidence base that underpins the activities of the proposed National Allergy Council (NAC), to ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of evidence-based management of allergic disease.

Working together, these organisations will deliver:

  • A shared care program to significantly cut wait times to see a specialist by at least 50 per cent and improve access to quality allergy care for all Australians, especially in rural and remote areas
  • The digital infrastructure for a National Allergy Registry and Biobank to facilitate precision medicine, allowing individualised allergy healthcare for children and adults. This would include a live anaphylaxis reporting system
  • A world-first National Allergy Clinical Trials Network to provide Australians with accelerated access to safe and effective allergy treatments.
  • Continued public health guidelines and prevention programs such as the successful ‘Nip allergies in the Bub’ program, which includes practical resources for parents and educational resources to support healthcare providers.
  • New clinical and research capabilities to enable Australia to maintain its world-leading status in allergy research and to answer the most important questions in allergy that will guide the way forward.

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett, Acting Director of the Centre for Food & Allergy Research and Co-Group Leader of Population Allergy at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) said, “The establishment of the National Allergy Centre of Excellence will be a huge leap forward for our understanding of allergies, especially in an Australian context, and will provide a solid evidence-base for initiatives of the National Allergy Council. Together, we will implement the first national allergy registry alongside a live anaphylaxis reporting system, which will facilitate precision medicine and improve consumer safety and prevent anaphylaxis deaths.”

Dr Preeti Joshi, ASCIA Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy and representative of the peak clinical body, the Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy (ASCIA) said the funding would allow urgent projects to progress.

“Over the past seven years, the National Allergy Strategy has engaged with key stakeholders to implement urgent projects with support from the Australian Government Department of Health. However, many projects have not been progressed because of the need for significant funding support. This includes a shared care program, which is essentially a patient centred approach to care that uses the skills and knowledge of a range of health care professionals who share joint responsibility with the patient, ensuring the patient receives the right care, at the right time, from the right health professionals, in the right place. We also urgently need an anaphylaxis registry that will ultimately help us save lives. These projects have the potential to make the biggest impact on the lives of people living with allergic diseases.”

“Today, we are thankful that the Australian Government has given their support for these critical initiatives, The National Allergy Strategy, ASCIA, A&AA and the Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR) would like to thank the Australian Government, and Minister Hunt in particular, for investing in the health and wellbeing of the many Australians living with allergic diseases. We would also like to acknowledge the leadership of the Hon Trent Zimmerman and the committee who led the Parliamentary Inquiry into Allergies and Anaphylaxis. We are also grateful to Dr Katie Allen, Member for Higgins, for her ongoing advocacy and support. This funding investment will ensure that there will be greater and equal access to quality care, particularly in rural, regional and remote areas,” finished Dr Joshi.

NAS A&AA ASCIA CFAR Logos

pdfAustralia leading the world: Federal funding secured for allergy prevention and management194.77 KB

Click here to view the budget information relating to allergies and anaphylaxis.

Further information on the National Allergic Clinical Trial Network and National Allergy Registry and Biobank Below.

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Read more: Australia leading the world: Federal funding secured for allergy prevention and management

New allergy guidelines to protect children from severe allergic reactions in schools and childcare

Food allergy and anaphylaxis is increasing in Australian children, with up to 1 in 20 school aged children having food allergies [1]. Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction, and the incidence of food-induced anaphylaxis in Australia has risen rapidly over the last decade [2]. New guidelines and resources from the National Allergy Strategy aim to equip schools and children’s education and care (CEC) settings to prevent and manage anaphylaxis.

The National Allergy Strategy has launched best practice guidelines for the prevention and management of anaphylaxis in schools and children’s education and care, including out of school hours care. Developed in consultation with key stakeholder organisations, staff working in the sector and parents, the guidelines are important resources in providing evidence-based information and support to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis, while also enabling children to participate in all activities.

“The reality is that severe allergy and the risk of anaphylaxis is common in the school and children’s education and care settings. Children with known allergies that are at risk of anaphylaxis may have severe reactions, but they can also occur in children not previously known to be at risk of anaphylaxis,” stated Maria Said, Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy and CEO of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA). “The new guidelines and supporting resources provide much-needed clarity around best practice.”

“Australia is a leader in this area, however a review of school policies and guidelines across Australian states and territories showed inconsistencies in anaphylaxis prevention and emergency treatment, particularly around the amount and frequency of staff training and incident reporting [1]. These variations create confusion and anxiety for parents and educators in schools, and ultimately put children’s safety at risk. While the sectors have a lot of demands on them, no one wants to live with a tragic incident that could have been prevented,” continued Ms Said.

In schools, there is currently no national mandated approach to training staff in the prevention, recognition and emergency treatment of anaphylaxis and significant variations exist in the approach between jurisdictions and government and non-government school sectors.

In children’s education and care services, the minimum requirements are less than what is required in schools and there is greater variation in the type and amount of training being undertaken. Research has shown that 1 in 10 participating services reported no requirement for staff to undertake anaphylaxis training, which is non- compliant with current national regulations [3]. Staff responsible for preparing, serving and supervising meals in children’s education and care services also have a responsibility for food allergy management, yet there is no requirement for them to undertake food service allergen management training.

To support the adoption of the guidelines, the National Allergy Strategy has also developed a new ‘Allergy Aware’ online hub for staff working in schools and CEC, providing free, evidence-based resources including an Implementation Guide, templates and sample documents, plus links to state and territory specific information. The Allergy Aware hub also includes sections for parents and older students.

Dr Preeti Joshi, a paediatric clinical immunology/allergy specialist and Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy, says the new guidelines and supporting resources outline what is reasonable and what works.

“It is important to embed consistent standards across all of the environments where children receive care so that everyone is informed and knows what is appropriate and reasonable. As an example, the guidelines might give a school the confidence to discuss appropriate allergy management with a concerned parent, or help a parent discuss what reasonable strategies a school or childcare service should have in place,” said Dr Joshi.

“Trying to completely ban food allergens in these settings simply does not work and is near impossible to enforce. It is not safe or practical to rely on people to not bring food allergens, of which there are many, into a certain environment. A consistent allergy aware approach with age-appropriate strategies is preferred. This includes ensuring staff are adequately trained, especially in the prompt recognition and treatment of an allergic reaction including anaphylaxis,” continued Dr Joshi.

“In addition, a range of appropriate risk minimisation strategies alongside good supervision and open communication is important. Things such as timely administration of adrenaline and correct positioning of the person experiencing anaphylaxis are key factors that can potentially save lives. Standardised reporting of incidents is also critical so we can learn where the gaps are and then work to increase safety. We are prevented from learning and improving after incidents because currently it is not mandatory to report them in schools and childcare services across Australia.”

The guidelines can also be used by overarching education and children’s education and care bodies, when reviewing and updating state and territory legislation, guidelines, policies and procedures to improve standardisation of anaphylaxis management across Australia.

Dr Katie Allen MP, food allergy expert and Member for Higgins – “Australia does not take a back seat when it comes to safety from anaphylaxis in schools and children’s education and care. These guidelines ensure that best practice is standardised across each state and territory. I welcome the work of the National Allergy Strategy in making these guidelines a reality”

The new guidelines and supporting resources are available at www.allergyaware.org.au.

pdfNAS Best practice guidelines media release226.19 KB

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About the National Allergy Strategy
The National Allergy Strategy (NAS) aims to improve the health and quality of life of Australians with allergic diseases and minimise the burden of allergic diseases on individuals, carers, healthcare services and the community. The NAS is a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia, the leading medical and patient organisations for allergy in Australia. For more information about the NAS go to: www.nationalallergystrategy.org.au

Read more: New allergy guidelines to protect children from severe allergic reactions in schools and childcare

Surviving a severe allergic reaction: Three of the most dangerous mistakes

World Allergy Week (13-19 June, 2021) seeks to raise awareness of anaphylaxis, potentially life-threatening allergic reactions that cause approximately 2,400 hospital admissions and approximately 20 deaths in Australia each year. Over 4 million Australians live with allergic disease, and that number is on the rise. During this week, leading allergy organisations are promoting important resources that could save lives, whilst they eagerly await a response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Allergies and Anaphylaxis.

“For many people, allergic reactions are uncomfortable and unpleasant, but for others they can be life threatening, culminating in anaphylaxis. Most commonly these can be caused by food, insect stings or bites or certain medications. When a person experiences anaphylaxis, a large amount of histamine and other chemical mediators are released into the body, causing an inflammatory response,” said Dr Preeti Joshi, Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy (NAS) and paediatric clinical immunology/allergy specialist.

“There are few things more frightening than having or witnessing an anaphylaxis. The symptoms can go from bad to worse very quickly. Your blood pressure can suddenly drop, and your airways narrow, affecting breathing. If anaphylaxis isn’t recognised and treated immediately, it can result in serious complications and can even be fatal,” explains Dr Joshi. “It is important to educate yourself about what to do, or not to do, if someone is having a severe allergic reaction. We strongly recommend positioning the patient appropriately, giving adrenaline if it’s available and calling triple zero.”

Three dangerous mistakes people make when responding to anaphylaxis:

To increase community awareness this World Allergy Week, allergy experts provide insight into the common mistakes people can make when responding to severe allergic reactions.

1. Assuming it is not a severe allergic reaction because there is no skin rash or facial swelling

“Many people assume that a person can’t be having a severe allergic reaction if they don’t have a skin rash or swelling, but 1 in 6 people will have no skin symptoms at all. In fact, skin symptoms tend to be a mild to moderate allergic symptom,” said Prof Michaela Lucas, President of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and clinical immunology/allergy specialist. “While it is important to be alert to those symptoms, do not ignore more serious symptoms just because there is no rash, particularly if there has been known exposure to an allergen. Breathing difficulties, tongue or throat swelling, dizziness or collapse are all possible symptoms of anaphylaxis and require immediate attention. ASCIA Action Plans and First Aid Plans for Anaphylaxis provide excellent guidance on what to do in an emergency.”

2. Delaying the administration of adrenaline (epinephrine)

“Many people still believe that taking an antihistamine will prevent a mild to moderate allergic reaction from progressing to anaphylaxis. This is not the case. Antihistamines do not treat the symptoms that affect breathing and blood pressure. Adrenaline is the first line treatment for anaphylaxis - a delay in giving adrenaline can cost a person’s life,” said Ms Maria Said, Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy and CEO of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA). “If in doubt, always give an adrenaline autoinjector, such as EpiPen®. These are emergency devices that work to reverse a severe allergic reaction. General use adrenaline autoinjectors can often be found at schools, larger hotels, convention centres or on planes.”

3. Allowing the person to walk (even to or from an ambulance) after having adrenaline

“Anaphylaxis always requires a trip to an emergency department, even if a person appears to have recovered, as they need to be carefully monitored. A common mistake is allowing a person to walk, even to an ambulance or even worse, drive themselves,” said A/Prof Kirsten Perrett, paediatric clinical allergy specialist and Chief Investigator of the Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR). “This is incredibly dangerous because of the impact of anaphylaxis on blood pressure. Walking or standing can take blood away from the heart which could impede resuscitation if required. That is why it is always important to lay a person flat or allow them to sit with their legs outstretched if they are having trouble breathing, but not to walk or stand – this could save their life.”

Read more: Surviving a severe allergic reaction: Three of the most dangerous mistakes

National Allergy Strategy launches first free national food allergy online training for hospital staff

All about Allergens for Hospitals

  • Australia has one of the highest incidences of food allergy in the developed world with around one in 10 infants [1], one in 20 children (aged 10-14 years) [2] and one in 50 adults affected [3].
  • The most recent data shows that food-induced anaphylaxis doubled between 1999 and 2012 [4].
  • Fatalities from food-induced anaphylaxis increase by around 10% each year between 1999 and 2012 [4].
  • Hospitals have a legal requirement and duty of care to provide safe and suitable food for patients including those with food allergies.

Today, a free, potentially life-saving online food allergy training course for hospital staff working in kitchens and on wards has been launched by the National Allergy Strategy, a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA). This project has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. “All about Allergens for Hospitals” is the first nationally standardised training for food allergen management for food service in Australian hospitals.

“The National Allergy Strategy is proud to launch this free training that increases food safety and has the potential to save lives,” says Ms Maria Said, CEO of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy. “People understandably assume that their food allergies are going to be managed well in a hospital environment because they see hospitals as a safe place. Currently, many hospitals do not have adequate practices in place and this is concerning.”

“Until the death of 13-year-old Louis Tate in 2015, only a few hospitals in the whole of Australia had a food allergy policy. Tragically, Louis’ death was preventable and we know that even since losing him there have been other incidents in hospitals that have been near misses. This new training aims to improve the understanding of both food preparation staff and hospital ward staff about the seriousness of food allergy, and to improve food safety, prevent allergic reactions and ultimately save lives,” continued Ms Said.

Louis Tate had a severe anaphylaxis after he ate a spoonful of the breakfast he was served. This was despite the fact that his mother had communicated Louis’ food allergies multiple times. His family want hospitals to have robust policies and processes in place for providing appropriate foods to patients with food allergy.

The “All about Allergens for Hospitals” training is aimed at all staff involved in the food service chain in a hospital. This includes kitchen managers, kitchen staff, ward managers, dietitians, nurses and other ward staff. They all play an important role in keeping patients with food allergy safe when they are in hospital. The training provides practical information and there are free downloadable templates and resources available from the Food Allergy Training website.

Read more: National Allergy Strategy launches first free national food allergy online training for hospital...

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National Allergy Strategy Rationale

Allergic diseases have become an increasingly important chronic disease and public health issue in Australia and other developed countries over the last two decades, contributing to increased demand for medical services, significant economic cost of care and reduced quality of life of people with allergic diseases and their carers.

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Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) is the leading medical organisation for allergy in Australia. 

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Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) is the leading patient support organisation for allergy in Australia. 

The National Allergy Strategy has received funding from the Australian Government Department of Health for the following projects:
Food allergy prevention | 250K Youth Project | Food service | Drug allergy | Shared Care Model

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The National Allergy Council acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land upon which we are located. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.