Students with food allergies often not prepared

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

(tribal drum beat) – [Narrator] Food allergies affect around 12 million Americans. And their reactions can be dangerous, and even life-threatening. How well are school children
and college students managing their food allergies? The University of Michigan Health System has been studying that question. – The overall question that these studies were attempting to address is preparedness of the
food allergic individual to deal with a reaction that occurs in whatever
environment that they’re in. Specifically, we wanted to see how well these individuals were prepared in terms of emergency medication, in terms of notifying others around them that they are food allergic, and taking steps to address
what measures need to be taken to protect them. In our study of the college students, it focused on one large
university population. One of the immediate
points that was discovered was that only 50% of the individuals who reported that they had a food allergy, were actually always avoiding the foods to which they identify
themselves as allergic. Among the college students, it was somewhat surprising that only 43% who identified themselves as food-allergic could verify that they
had, in their possession, an emergency medication
to treat a reaction. What was even more surprising was that only about 20% had self-injectable
epinephrine available to treat a reaction, which is what most
allergists will recommend as the most efficient
way to treat a reaction. And it’s potentially life-saving
in certain circumstances. Overall, this study indicated
that there was a high degree of unnecessary risk being taken. The ultimate take-home message that I have for these college students is to try to minimize as
much risk as possible. Be it by notifying others
that you have a food allergy. Be it by notifying Health Services that you are potentially at
risk for a severe food allergy. Or be it by carrying your
medication with you at all time. One of our other studies
addressed, specifically, peanut and tree nut allergies
within a school population. In an attempt to re-examine
reactions that occur at school, this population was exclusively drawn from members of the Food
Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and visitors to their website. Specifically, we found that 43% of these school-aged children have had at least one reaction at school. One of the most salient findings of this study of school-aged children was that schools and facilities that had nurses on staff full-time provided safer environments. We found statistically
different differences in the amount of children who had Allergy Action Plans on file, whose plans were followed
when there was a reaction. And there were also
significantly higher percentage of children at these schools with nurses who had self-injectable epinephrine
available for treatment. Overall, I think this study of school-aged children indicates that we are doing a better job of taking the allergies seriously. However, there’s lots of work to be done. I think one of the major
issues to address would be that epinephrine needs to
be used in these reactions. I think under-utilization of epinephrine is predisposing these children for, possibly, more severe reactions that result from either
delaying treatment, or absence of the treatment. (lively drum beat)

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