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Background and aims: The term “Food Allergy” refers to a complex global health problem with a wide spectrum of severity. However, a uniform definition of severe food allergy is currently missing. This systematic review is the preliminary step towards a state-of-the-art synopsis of the current evidence relating to the severity of IgE-mediated food allergy; it will inform attempts to develop a consensus to define food allergy severity by clinicians and other stakeholders. Methods: We undertook a mixed-methods systematic review, which involved searching 11 international biomedical databases for published studies from inception to 31 December 2019. Studies were independently screened against pre-defined eligibility criteria and critically appraised by established instruments. The substantial heterogeneity of included studies precluded meta-analyses and, therefore, narrative synthesis of quantitative and qualitative data was performed. Results: We found 23 studies providing eligible primary data on symptom-specific severity of food allergic reactions, and 31 previously published symptom-severity scoring systems referred to food allergic reactions. There were seven studies which assessed quality-of-life measures in patients (and family members) with different food allergy severity and two studies that investigated the economic burden of food allergy severity. Overall, the quality and the global rating of all included studies were judged as being moderate. Conclusions: There is heterogeneity among severity scoring systems used and even outcomes considered in the context of severity of food allergy. No score has been validated. Our results will be used to inform the development of an international consensus to define the severity of food allergy. Systematic review registration: A protocol was prospectively registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) database with the registration number CRD42020183103 (

Original publication




Journal article


World Allergy Organization Journal

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