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Allergies Health Center

Kids’ Food Allergies Damper Dining Out

Study Shows Children With Peanut Allergies Often Don’t Get Lifesaving Medication
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Many Parents Didn't Alert Restaurant continued...

"We call this a chef card," Sicherer says. Many experts recommend typing up small business-size cards featuring the person's name and food allergy and all offending ingredients, with a request that the kitchen leave them off any dish you order.

As for who they talked to, the survey showed that most parents (95%) informed the waiter or waitress about their child's allergies. Fifty-six percent told the manager, and 44% informed the chef or kitchen staff.

Wesley Burkes, MD, chairman of the committee that chose what studies to highlight at the AAAAI meeting and a child allergy specialist at Duke University, says that talking to the chef or cook is always a good idea.

"Talk to someone who really knows what is in the meal," he says.

"Say your kid is allergic to cheese. You need to spell out that eating a burger that has been prepared on the same grill as a cheeseburger could evoke a life-threatening reaction," Sicherer adds.

Other Findings

  • About one in five families said they never ate out or ordered fast food because of their kid's allergies.
  • Only 71% were aware that restaurant chains and corporate web sites often provide allergen information, and only 26% knew that 800 numbers offer allergy information.

The survey also showed that restaurants can improve their notification of allergenic ingredients, Sicherer says. Advisory statements such as "menu item may be cooked in the same oil as an item containing the allergen" don't help much, the parents reported.

Also, 48% of parents found allergen information "extremely inconsistent" from restaurant to restaurant.

Epinephrine Underused

For the second study, Nha Nguyen Luu, MD, and colleagues at McGill University Health Care in Montreal, Canada, surveyed 271 parents of kids with peanut allergy.

Overall, 127 of their children suffered 148 reactions over an average one-year period. Seventy-eight were considered moderate, and 19 were severe. Such attacks are usually rapid and overwhelming, and include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, severe, high-pitched wheezing, breathing difficulty, hives, facial swelling, and loss of consciousness.

Results showed that even though an epinephrine shot can slow down or stop a life-threatening allergic reaction, it was used in only 22 of these 97 cases, Luu says.

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