Food Allergies on the Rise: No Surprise!

How Many EpiPens?
The latest findings published in the June 25, 2012 issue of Pediatrics will come as no surprise to school nurses, teachers, pediatricians and anyone in the food allergy community. "Allergic Reactions to Foods in Preschool-Aged Children" found that reactions among young children are rising. No coincidence that the number of EpiPens in the school nurse's office and the number of school districts adopting food allergy management plans has also been increasing.


The study did indicate several reasons for the rising numbers of reactions:
  • lack of vigilance
  • misreading ingredient labels
  • allergen cross-contact
  • non-accidental allergen feeding 
  • under-utilization of epinephrine for severe reactions
A few other items of note to me from this study:
  • severe reactions were due to ingestion, rather than exposure through skin or inhaling
  • there continues to be a hesitancy to administer epinephrine for anaphylaxis. Reasons cited included not being able to identify symptoms as an allergic reaction, unavailability of epinephrine, feeling too afraid to administer epinephrine  and waiting for additional symptoms. 
  • 11% of the reactions were as a result of purposeful reintroduction by the family. I've reported on our experiences in reintroducing foods at home. While we've discussed this with our allergist, I can certainly see how frustration with lack of progress and higher medical costs may lead parents to try this at home.
And so we continue reading ingredient labels, maintain vigilance and avoid cross-contact. It's disturbing though that the number of reactions is increasing and yet we still can't find a root cause. It was recently referred to as "an epidemic" and while I agree that we need to continue to raise awareness, we certainly need to annihilate allergies to food once and for all.

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