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Teens With Food Allergies Take Risks

Survey Shows Many Leave Medications at Home, Eat Potentially Dangerous Foods

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 6, 2006 (Miami Beach) -- Teens with food allergies admit to taking potentially deadly risks with their health, particularly when out with friends, a new survey shows.

Among the risky behaviors: Leaving medication at home when at a school dance or wearing tight clothes, eating foods that could cause a reaction, and failing to tell their pals about their condition, says Scott H. Sicherer, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

"Teens and young adults are at high risk for fatal food allergic reactions, so we wanted to find out why and what can be done to help protect them," he says.

"What we found is that the reasons for their risk-taking behaviors tended to vary by social circumstances and perceived risk," he tells WebMD.

Sicherer presented the findings at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology's annual meeting.

2 Million Kids Have Allergies

Approximately 2 million school-aged children have food allergies, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. Teens and young adults with peanut or tree-nut allergies and asthma appear to be at greatest risk for severe or life-threatening reactions.

Since there is no cure, strict avoidance of the food in question is the only way to prevent a reaction. But even if a person has a reaction after eating a food he thought was safe, rapid administration of epinephrine can usually save the day.

That's why doctors insist that people with food allergies always carry an EpiPen -- a syringe filled with epinephrine and encased in a self-injecting device that can be used anywhere, says F. Estelle R. Simons, MD. Simons is an allergy specialist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Which Kids Leave Medication at Home?

The new research shows that teens often fail to take their potentially life-saving medication along when engaging in certain activities. While 94% say they carry it when traveling, only 43% bring it along when playing sports. Nearly a third leave it home when attending a school dance or going to a friend's house.

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