Teens gamble with food allergies

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Hello, I didn't have time to do a thorough search before posting this article I found.

Teens gamble with food allergies

Monday, March 13, 2006 From CNN NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- A substantial number of teenagers with food allergies admit to "risk-taking" behavior such as not reading food labels or knowingly eating foods labeled "may contain" allergens, a survey shows.

The poll of 174 food-allergic individuals whose average age was 16 years also shows that many of them do not always carry self-injectable epinephrine -- the medication that is immediately needed in the case of a severe allergic reaction.

Whether or not they pack their EpiPens depends largely on where they are going, who they will be with, and how convenient it is to carry it. If the purse is small or the clothes tight-fighting, odds are they won't carry it.

"If you're not carrying it with you, it's a little hard to inject it," Dr. Scott H. Sicherer from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York warned at an asthma and allergy conference in Miami Beach.

Among the food-allergic teens surveyed, 75 percent were allergic to peanuts, 20 percent to milk, 75 percent were allergic to two or more foods, 82 percent had had a severe "anaphylactic" allergic reaction at some time in their lifetime, and 52 percent had more than three.

The teens reported they were most apt to carry epinephrine with them when traveling (94 percent) or going out to eat (81 percent).

However, when they are with friends, at school or dance events, or on dates, "we are looking at levels that are generally below 65 percent of the time that they are carrying it," Sicherer said. Teens are least likely to take epinephrine to sports events (43 percent).

Studies have shown that food-allergic teenagers and young adults are at highest risk for dying from a severe allergic reaction. "We have to impress upon parents of these children and for the teenagers themselves and for those around them that they have to be consistent in carrying self-injectable epinephrine," Sicherer said.

The survey also revealed that three quarters of the teens said they "always" read food labels, but 42 percent said they would eat a food labeled "may contain" an allergen.

Only 60 percent of food-allergic teens told their friends about their allergy, but most of those that did not indicated that they wanted their friends to know and wished the school would tell them. "That's very telling," Sicherer said. "These teenagers are really thirsty for their friends around them to know about their allergy and they are a little reluctant to do the teaching themselves."

Sixty-eight percent felt that educating their friends would make living with food allergy easier.

On Mar 17, 2006

This is a bit long, so sorry in advance...

This article is posted somewhere else of the Yahoo News site and I printed it off and gave it to my 15 year old DD to read, because I had my suspicions her epi is not always as close to her as I'd like it to be.

Here's what I found out after my DD read the article:

Her epi is in her purse at school, so she always has it at lunch, but she doesn't always take her purse to her classes, it's often in her locker. Her classes don't allow food in them and the rooms she is in all have signs on the door about nuts. The office also has an epi.

When she goes out with friends, she either always has her purse or she puts the epi in her pocket, eg for skiing, etc. At work, her epi is in her purse which is hung with her coat on a rack within viewing.

At school dances, her purse is in the guarded coatroom, the school office is opened and staffed, so her office epi is available, but her personal epi is in her purse in the cloakroom. They don't have food at the dances.

At parties, the kids all seem to leave their purses, jackets and shoes in a big heap at the front door of whoever's house they're at - this is a big worry to me, because I have often called her cellphone and gotten no answer, because her purse isn't readily available. To me, this is the riskiest situation, because my guess is that parents(drivers) may not always be present.

She doesn't eat food with no labels, she doesn't eat "may contain" items, and now she's even looking to see where snack food has been manufactured/processed and if it's not in Canada, she won't eat it. This is one area I have full confidence in.

She claims she asks in restaurants, but I have no proof of this, other than a restaurant that used to have safe pesto, she came home and told me she can't have the pesto anymore, so either she asked or one of the girls she was with spoke up - I'm not sure.

So I'm stil uneasy about her access to her epis. Any comments or suggestions on how to deal with these lapses would be appreciated!

Linda

On Mar 17, 2006

My son is 21 and I guess it is easier for boys because of belts and belt loops. He has never ever been without his epi pens since I found them locked away in K so many years ago.

I first made him a belt carrier and later bought the ones FAAN sells. We always have an extra on hand.

It's just part of him. He has known since age 4 that a peanut reaction can be fatal and epinephrine is the thing to stop that reaction.

He's never been a risk taker. I can remember once recently he tasted a drink from Starbucks without asking the ingredients and he and I will Always differ on that one. I think this is the FIRST time ever he's done that.

But I think as a young man who still has some difficulty with auditory processing it is much easier for him (and safer) to read labels and ask questions so he is religious about that.

I was never afraid to use the word DEAD with him. I never said You'll die like that but if I was talking to someone about his PA I'd make sure they knew a reaction could be fatal. I also made sure my son heard me saying that so he got the direct lesson from me and indirectly as we taught others.

I never know where I left my purse at any given moment and if I were an active teenager it would be doubled. I can't imagine what girls do with their epi pens but I would say it is safest on your person.

I'd also say reinforce the fact that "You don't have time to get to your locker or your car." Read that article about the Harvard guy whose epi was in his car and he died trying to get to it.

Seconds not minutes. Seconds.

Good luck

Peg

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