Study: Rates of severe reactions to food allergens in kids higher than previously indicated

Severe allergic reactions are more common in young kids than previously thought according to a study published yesterday.

Kids with milk and egg allergies suffer reactions to these foods more often than expected, while at the same time caregivers are hesitant to give epinephrine during reactions, which combats the symptoms of an allergic reaction, according to a study by the Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR).

Although research still is ongoing, clear results are beginning to emerge. During a three year period, about 72 percent of the 512 children in the study had a food allergic reaction, with 53 percent having more than one reaction. Of those, about 11 percent of the reactions were severe and led to symptoms such as dizziness, a drop in blood pressure or swelling in the throat.

However, only in 30 percent of these reactions did caregivers give the child epinephrine, which can save a person’s life during an allergic reaction by restricting blood vessels and opening the airway. Why the hesitation? Caregivers gave several reasons for not administering epinephrine, such as not recognizing the reaction as severe or as a reaction at all, being afraid to give the child epinephrine or not having it available.

Approximately 90 percent of the food allergic reactions of children in the study came from the accidental ingestion of milk, egg or peanuts.

The study follows 512 children from ages 3 to 15 months who either are allergic to milk or egg or are likely to develop an allergy based on indicators from skin tests. Researchers also told caregivers to avoid giving children food they were allergic to and how to handle a reaction if one occurred, including a prescription for epinephrine and directions on how to use it.

About 8 percent of children in the U.S. have a food allergy, a number that’s been increasing in recent years.

So what’s the take-home? Accidental and nonaccidental exposure can cause severe reactions, which often are undertreated for various reasons. There also are areas that need improvement, such as preventing exposure and cross-contamination, education, how to read labels properly, and how to administer epinephrine, according to the study’s conclusions.

To read the full story, click here.

To read the full study, click here.

For Neogen’s Food Allergen Handbook, click here.

For a list of blog posts regarding food allergens, click here.

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