Kids with food allergies may feel unsafe at school

Young people who have experienced life-threatening anaphylactic shock from specific food exposures have significantly different views of the risks associated with their allergies based on their age and can benefit from discussing their perceptions of the safety of their school environment in improving their ability to cope, a new research by Canadian researchers suggests.

The study consulted directly with children about their experiences living with and managing a chronic medical condition that requires them to be keenly alert to their surroundings.

The study involved 20 children and teenagers and is considered exploratory by the authors, who caution against broader conclusions because of its limited sample size.

Ten children aged eight through twelve and ten teenagers, all of whom have potentially life-threatening food allergies, were selected from public schools in Ontario, Canada.

Their conditions are severe enough many have to carry an injectable form of adrenaline to treat episodes should they begin reacting to an unanticipated exposure to a food allergen.

Both age groups identified environmental and social barriers that contributed to feelings of isolation, exclusion or being teased. Missing out on school activities, camps, or time with friends was common.

Close friends provide key support to allergic kids but the subjects identified the greatest barrier to safety as stemming from uninformed or misinformed educators and others.

Young children relied more on parents and teachers to cope, whereas adolescents often anxiously fended for themselves by avoiding risky foods, educating others, navigating confusing food labels and quickly escaping from unsafe places.

Some felt disempowered and overburdened and even developed symptoms like constant hand washing or waiting to eat until an adult was present who was available to drive them to the hospital.

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For teenagers, one successful coping strategy was redefining what is “normal” given their potentially life-threatening reactions to certain food exposures such as tree nuts and some seafood.

The study has been published in the journal Risk Analysis. (ANI)

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