Teens With Food Allergies Take Risks
Survey Shows Many Leave Medications at Home, Eat Potentially Dangerous Foods
WebMD News Archive
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
"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
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
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
Wearing tight clothes is also a major deterrent, with only about half
bringing their epinephrine in these circumstances, Sicherer says.
"Teens have to be consistent in carrying it," he tells WebMD.
"If they're wearing tight clothes, they can use a holster; if they're at a
sports event, they can put it in their gym bag. Most teens always have their
cell phones, so they certainly should be able to take along their
Another risky behavior: tasting foods to see if they really contained the
culprit food, he says.
The researchers surveyed 174 participants aged 13 to 21 using a web-based
questionnaire. Three-fourths of the participants suffered from peanut allergy
and 20% were allergic to milk. A total of 82% reported they had suffered
anaphylaxis, a severe life-threatening allergic reaction to the culprit food;
52% had more than three such reactions in their past.