More food allergy education needed

Schools should consider risks regarding food intolerances and be prepared for inadvertent exposures.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted July 12, 2004

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Chicago -- Mohamed Kahn, MD, a radiation oncologist from Ann Arbor, Mich., and his wife, a lawyer, have waged an uphill battle to make the local public school a safe place for their children, who have allergies to milk, eggs and peanuts. In the past two years, the couple has hired lawyers and brought in their own doctors to prepare the school for the children's particular needs.

"I can't tell you the stress that this gives parents," he said. "The disempowerment that you have over the ability to take care of your child once they enter the school system is shocking."

It is because of stories like this and acknowledgement that dangerous food allergies are on the rise that the AMA, at its Annual Meeting in Chicago last month, recommended that schools provide more student and teacher education on food allergies. Schools also should have guidelines to deal with food allergy emergencies and anaphylaxis kits on the premises with at least one staff member trained in their use.

"For reasons which remain unclear, allergies have increased in incidence and intensity," said Louis Kraus, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and delegate from Highland Park, Ill. "Sometimes it's a tremendous battle for parents to be able to set up a safe place for their children to be educated."

The new AMA policy also recognized that airplanes can be dangerous for people with food allergies. Commercial airlines are required to have medical emergency supplies on board, but physicians who have dealt with food allergy incidents say they are often complicated by personnel's lack of knowledge.

Linda Ford, MD, an allergist and immunologist and delegate from Papillion, Neb., once responded to an airplane emergency that was reported as a cardiac event but turned out to be a severe allergic reaction. "I knew there was epinephrine on the plane, but the person did not know where it was. We finally found the medical kit and were able to take care of this person, but I felt that the training on the airlines needed to be better."

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External links

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (link)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases information on food allergy and intolerances (link)

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