New Guidelines may help Food-Allergic Children Feel Safer

Food allergy affects up to 6% of children and results in an estimated 150-200 fatalities each year in the U.S. Accidental exposures are common and occur in homes, restaurants and schools.

Now a new study has shown that children who have experienced life-threatening anaphylactic shock from food have significantly different views of the risks associated with their allergies.

As these children mature into teenagers they become even more afraid of their food allergies, feel less confident about their surroundings and the level of information possessed by school personnel and even their parents.

High schools were perceived as less safe because of the lack of homerooms and unsupervised lunch areas. Elementary schools were considered safer because of the stronger presence of parents and consistent routines involving supervised lunch rooms, trained personnel, and communication strategies.

The study involved 20 children with severe food allergies.  They were interviewed about their experiences living with and managing a chronic medical condition that requires them to carry an EpiPen and remain keenly alert to their surroundings.

Both age groups identified environmental and social barriers that contributed to feelings of isolation, exclusion or being teased. Missing out on school activities, camps, or time with friends was common.

Young children relied more on parents and teachers to cope, whereas adolescents often anxiously fended for themselves by avoiding risky foods, educating others, navigating confusing food labels and quickly escaping from unsafe places. Some felt disempowered and overburdened and even developed symptoms like constant hand washing or waiting to eat until an adult was present who was available to drive them to the hospital.

SRxA‘s Word on Health is hopeful that new guidelines produced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for both clinicians and patients will help.

They include a definition of food allergy, discuss co-morbid conditions associated with food allergy, and focus on reactions to food. Topics addressed include the epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of food allergy, as well as the management of severe symptoms and anaphylaxis.  In addition they provide 43 concise clinical recommendations and guidance on points of current controversy in patient management.