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Students Inattentive to Food Allergies

Study Shows Many College Students Don't Pay Attention to Their Food Allergies
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Opportunity for Intervention continued...

The study also pointed out areas where education or college dining hall policies could improve prevention, including labeling all foods in dining halls that contain one of the "big eight" food allergens (milk, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, eggs, soy, wheat, and fish).

Additionally, he stressed that children with food allergies need to be educated about preventing exposure and treating it if it happens. Greenhawt notes that the study did indicate that some doctors have been successful in teaching their young patients to treat a reaction, as nearly all of students who carried an injectable device knew how to use it properly.

Low-Income Children at High Risk

In another study, Ekta Shah, MD, of Children's Hospital Chicago at Northwestern University-McGaw Medical Center (NWU-MMC) explored demographic factors that may put some children at higher risk for accidental exposure to food allergies. The hypothesis was that children living in low-income and/or non-English speaking households will have a higher prevalence of accidental exposure to food allergens than children from higher-income homes where English is spoken.

A study included 100 children diagnosed with a food allergy who were patients at the Pediatric Allergy and Outpatient Clinic at NWU-MMC.

More than half of the children were from homes with an annual income greater than $100,000. Forty-one percent of participants had experienced accidental exposure to a food allergen. Of this group, 67% were from households with incomes below the Cook County, Ill., median income of $40,000 annually.

The study established a significant correlation between household income and accidental exposure to food allergens, says Shah, but the sample of non-English-speaking households was too small to make a conclusion about the role of language. Only 13 of the children were from ethnic homes with a different primary language.

Commenting on this study, Greenhawt says based on clinical experience he would expect language to be a more important factor in accidental exposure than income level.

The studies were presented Nov. 12 at The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Dallas.

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