Kids’ Food Allergies Damper Dining Out
Study Shows Children With Peanut Allergies Often Don’t Get Lifesaving Medication
March 17, 2008 (Philadelphia) -- Even though most parents alert restaurant
staff if their children have
food allergies, a sizable number of the kids still suffer allergic
reactions when dining out, a new survey shows.
Adding insult to injury, a second study suggests that children who suffer
peanut allergies often don't get
Both studies were presented here at the annual meeting of the American
Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
Food Allergy Common Among Kids
Up to 8% of children have food allergies, which can be life-threatening.
People with food allergies must strictly avoid their trigger foods, and that
can put a damper on eating out, says Scott Sicherer, MD, a pediatric
food-allergy specialist at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York
"Surveys have shown that dining out is the No. 1 thing that negatively
impacts the quality of life of people with food allergies," he tells
Sicherer and colleagues surveyed 294 families attending the 2007 Food
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network conferences
in New York and Chicago. Parents were asked about their experiences when eating
out or getting take-out food.
Most of the kids, whose median age was 5 years, were allergic to peanuts, tree nuts,
eggs, and milk; 83% avoided more than one food.
Overall, about one-third of the kids experienced at least one allergic reaction when dining
out, and one-third of these kids had had three or more adverse reactions,
In 70% of cases, peanuts were to blame; tree nuts were the culprit in 64% of
Many Parents Didn't Alert Restaurant
One of the most noteworthy findings, Sicherer says, was that 30% of parents
said they didn't always alert restaurant staff of their children's food
"You should always identify yourself or your child as being
allergic," he says.
Go into detail, he advises. "Telling someone you're allergic to peanuts
is a lot different than explaining that even a trace amount of a food could
make you or your child sick."
When there was communication between the family and the kitchen, it was
typically verbal, he says. Only 14% of parents conveyed food-allergy
information to the restaurant in writing.
"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.