SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Allergy season is right around the corner, not good news for the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies. That includes 15 million with food allergies.
New research shows a massive jump for medical claims in Louisiana related to severe, potentially deadly anaphylactic reactions. And there are several theories to explain that jump.
There’s a giant gulf between the unpleasant symptoms of a typical allergy compared to those of anaphylaxis, in which people suffer a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction.
Allergy sufferer Susan Morrison described an attack she survived.
“My throat started closing and I couldn’t swallow. it was like you were going to pass out right there.”
Then there are the millions of parents who have seen their own children suffer an anaphylactic reaction, like Tyres Nesmith.
"When we turned around his eyes were swollen shut, they had turned black, his nose was flat. We rushed him to the emergency room."
Now, it turns out over a 7 year period from 2009 through 2016, there's been a 61 percent jump in anaphylaxis medical claims in Louisiana.
That’s according to recently released results of a study on private insurance claims from Food Allergy Research & Education, better known as FARE.
It describes itself as the largest private funder of food allergy research in the world.
There are two primary causes for that huge jump in claims, as Shreveport allergy specialist Dr. David Kaufman explained to us.
"One of the reasons is that there's increased awareness about food allergy out there."
Dr. Kaufman spoke to us from his office at Breathe America, asthma and allergy treatment clinic in south Shreveport.
And Kaufman said there's more happening here than simply more people seeking medical care.
“All allergies are on the rise. And there’s this hygiene hypothesis.”
The theory goes that we have far less exposure to germs these days, which over time has weakened our immune systems.
He urges anyone with anaphylaxis to always have their portable, injectable epinephrine on them at all times. Many know it from the brand name EpiPen.
"Sadly, the reality is that a third to even up to half of the time people do not have it with them."
Kaufman said he's seen too many cases where parents have their EpiPen with them, but do not immediately administer the epinephrine first before rushing their child to the emergency room - when every second count to get the medication into the body.
Dr. Kaufman cautions against taking the time to drive someone to the hospital who is having an anaphylactic reaction because it risks wasting valuable time.
He urged people to instead call 9-1-1 immediately so arriving paramedics can administer the life-saving medication right then.