Dr Robert Boyle can be heard talking about how you are more likely to be murdered than die from anaphylaxis on Inside Health which features adrenaline auto-injectors and their suitability for general use. Skip to minute 18:30 to listen to the interview. I have written about this before a while ago when Dr Boyle published his research comparing allergies to murder. He has already faced by wrath, but he is still saying this nonsense.

You can read Dr Boyle’s research here in Dying from a food allergy is less likely than murder on the Imperial College website.

Allergy death less likely than murder

Allergy death less likely than murder

Quite frankly comparing the whole population with the likelihood to be murdered in the first place is pretty pointless. We don’t go around worrying about being murdered, unless let’s say, we live in the Bronx.

You could argue that someone in the Bronx is more likely to be murdered than someone in Aylesbury so it depends on how the calculation is done and what you are trying to prove. And Dr Boyle does have very good intentions at heart. He wants those us with life threatening allergies or caring for someone who is serverly allergic to not live with too much fear because death from anaphylaxis is very rare.

Just for your information the murder rate in the Bronx is 0.08 per 1,000 population and the population is 1,424,196. Let’s be glad we don’t live in the Bronx AND have life threatening allergies!

If you compare the number of murders in a year nationwide and divide by the whole population, then that’s one thing but that’s not very useful either is it? Most of us live one place most of the time don’t we? So why compare with other countries in Europe or the whole world’s population?

The same goes for the allergy calculation, if it’s the number of deaths from anaphylaxis divided by the whole population, then on that basis, you could compare murder with anaphylaxis but it’s pointless.

If you don’t have allergies and are not at risk of anaphylaxis you are very unlikely to have an anaphylactic attack – I would say you’re never going to have one but as they say, never say never. So we should discount all those people who do not live with the fear of anaphylaxis from our calculations.

And the chance of death from Anaphylaxis = Number of deaths from Anaphylaxis divided by number of people who get an anaphylactic attack when exposed to a particular allergen.

Let’s compare murder with anaphylaxis; every exposure to an allergen which causes an allergic reaction could be classed as an ‘attack’ on the body. It certainly feels like one!

So, to get a percentage for the likelihood of dying from anaphylaxis we would do this:

Divide the value 20 (number of deaths from anaphylaxis in the UK per year) by the number 200,000 (the number of people with life threatening diagnosed allergies in the UK) then multiply by 100.

This gives us…

1% of people who have life threatening allergies in the UK who will die from anaphylaxis.

If you then compare that to the likelihood of being murdered and you base this on the fact that only 11 people out of 1 million are murdered in the UK every year you can see already that it’s a tiny percentage compared to the allergic community who may have a fatal allergic reaction.

i.e. 11 in 1 000 000 = (11/1000 000)x100% = 0.0011%. Cent is French for 100, so percent is per one hundred. When percentage is really small people express stats per million instead. Hence 11 in one million.

20 in 200,000 is 100 in a million so the chance of fatal anaphylaxis is higher than being murdered anyway.

Looking at it like this I have no idea how Dr Robert Boyle actually justified his statistics.

If hospitals admissions for anaphylaxis were an attack

See: https://www.allergyuk.org/allergy-statistics/allergy-statistics

So, simply put, 0.01% of people with anaphylaxis die each year. It’s not much, but more importantly it’s actually far higher than the number of people who get murdered.

If the same percentage was applied to the UK population for murder, there would be 65,000 murders each year. I’d rather take my chances in Honduras!

However, if one defines a hospital admission for anaphylaxis as…attempted murder or GBH, then what percentage of anaphylactics are “attacked” each year. I think it’s around 5%, but this figure would need verifying. Either way, it’s definitely something to be worried about. Your adrenaline, (I carry an Emerade) can therefore be seen as your “stab proof vest” – hopefully… it helps.

Are 5% of UK citizens hospitalised after a violent attack, each year? I don’t think so.

There were 20,000 allergy admissions of which 12,000 were emergencies. So 12,000/200,000 = 6% are “attacked” each year of which 0.01% died. And its growing…

So we have just proved that to compare murder with anaphylaxis is nonsense.

Especially since the allergic community are one of the most well educated and dedicated group of people at avoiding their potential assassin. Just come for a night out with me to see the lengths I sometimes go to in order to ensure my safety. Go out for day with an allergy mum taking care of an allergic toddler and fear sky rockets because kids pick things up, put them in their mouths and can’t always tell you how they’re feeling if they have accidentally ingested an allergen.

The number of potential ‘attacks’ the allergic person avoids in one day can be huge and it’s endless. It’s happening all the time. Like a friend with a latex allergy at a party recently arriving only to find balloons everywhere. Lots of little assassins bobbing about in the air.

Imagine if we all went about eating what we wanted and not avoiding our allergens – the death rate would be significantly higher I think.

Was it a completely pointless comparison?

What Dr Robert Boyle was trying to do was to allay some of our natural fears so that we didn’t go around in perpetual terror of coming into contact with our allergen or our child’s allergen.

But we’re not stupid Dr Boyle. Just give us the stats. We are in the UK so let’s not, for the sake of argument look at the whole of Europe or even the world. It’s not relevant. Only 1% of the adult population have life threatening allergies and a mere tiny 1% of those could be at risk of fatal anaphylaxis. It’s very rare.

We do get that.

But when you’ve felt your throat tightening or watched your baby go limp after eating something it doesn’t feel like a pointless worry. It feels very, very real. And the feelings you have when you’re having anaphylaxis are exactly that you are going to die. I’ve experienced this myself and been in a complete panic and behaving irrationally because the fight or flight mechanism kicks in. You need to fight this hard and boy does your body fight it. I can sleep for hours and hours after an anaphylactic attack and it takes me days to recover fully.

What do you think?
Does Dr Boyle make your blood boil? (do you see what I did there?)

The number of children with allergies is far higher and growing faster than the number of adults so would the likelihood of death be even higher for kids at risk of anaphylaxis? Hopefully not as statistics do show that those in early teens and adulthood do seem to have far more life threatening anaphylactic attacks causing death than children. Doctors don’t know why, or what changes but it seems to be a fact.

Dear Dr Robert Boyle – One day we will meet and I won’t be Mrs Angry Crazy Allergy Woman because I’m really not like that and I will have calmed down by then, but just a word of advice. Stop comparing anaphylaxis to murder. First of all, it’s not helpful and second of all, you can prove anything if you manipulate statistics. Just as I have proved that there is absolutely no point in comparing murder to death from anaphylaxis.

If you want to allay our fears just try to understand your patients and don’t insult their intelligence. There. I said it. Rant over.


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