Recent studies have shown that food allergy impacts one in every 10 Victorian children born. Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have doubled over the last decade in Australia, USA and UK. In Australia, admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children aged zero to four years are even higher, having increased five-fold over the same period.
The new Paediatric Allergy and Immunology service at Monash Children’s Hospital (MCH) aims to improve the health and quality of life of children with allergies by providing an integrated Paediatric Allergy service. This service is in direct response to hearing the needs of children with allergies and aims to have increased collaboration with community paediatricians and Allergists, primary health networks, and consumer groups to deliver an effective and equitable model of care.
The Paediatric Allergy clinic launched in August and is currently performed via Telehealth. This initiative was started by Professor Jim Buttery, the Head of Infection and Immunity and commenced with the recruitment of Paediatric Allergists and Immunologists Dr Paxton Loke (Clinical Lead) and Dr Mark Taranto. This service has also recruited two experienced Clinical Nurse Consultants, Sigrid Pitkin and Liz Stevenson-Smith and Allergy Dietitian Marianne Tomlin. The expert team have worked very closely with Janine Maloney, Nurse Manager of Lagoon Same day Unit MCH where the food challenges will be conducted.
Prior to its existence, there was no publicly funded Paediatric Allergy service for children in the Southern or Eastern Melbourne regions.
Dr Paxton Loke said: “There is an overwhelming need for affordable paediatric allergy services in south-eastern Melbourne as the inequity of access is increasing morbidity, distress and financial hardship for families, and exposing children to an unacceptable risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis.
“The future outlook for the service is to develop it into an integrated clinical and academic centre for Paediatric Allergy and Immunology where excellence in clinical care can be provided alongside cutting edge research, training and education programs.”
With its launch in the midst of COVID-19, the service has adapted some of its practices. The comprehensive team has established a safe and effective way of performing skin prick testing using a semi-drive through approach with the assistance of Monash Immunisation. They have also established a specialised allergy dietetic clinic via Telehealth, to allow patients to access this service from home.
The service has already seen many patients with great success. One mother, whose son was found to have an allergy to eggs, spoke of her experience with the service.
“Having a baby with an allergy can be nerve-racking at times, so having an expert service that is close by and accessible through public health hospitals is helpful,” she said.
“The team at Monash Children’s were great! They helped identify my son’s allergy and provided me with great support and helpful advice on what to look out for.”
Initially, the service will provide an understanding of the clinical aspects of food allergies in the patient cohort. There will also be a focus on the clinical quality of service delivery via regular audits. In the future, this may include research on prevention of allergic diseases.
As the population grows, so too does the demand for medical, nursing and allied health staff to effectively deliver this care to the community. Congratulations to Professor Jim Buttery, Dr Paxton Loke and the entire nursing and allied health team on the successful launch of this much-needed service.