Food allergies have been on the rise in recent years. Studies suggest that up to 1 in 13 children are affected by a food allergy. Egg and cow’s milk are the most common food allergies for infants and toddlers. Fortunately, most children will lose a milk or egg allergy by the time they enter school. Peanut and tree nut allergies are also becoming more common. Unfortunately, only 10-20% of children will ever outgrow a nut allergy.
Currently there is no cure for food allergies. Instead, doctors rely on an accurate diagnosis, avoiding food triggers, and being prepared in the event of a severe reaction. Making the situation more challenging, nearly half of children with a food allergy may be at risk for a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:
hives or itchy welts
vomiting or diarrhea
difficulty breathing (cough, wheeze or shortness of breath)
dizziness or passing out
During a severe food allergy reaction, epinephrine (“adrenaline”) can be a life-saving medication. Epinephrine is typically injected into a thigh muscle with an “auto-injector” device like EpiPen® or Auvi-Q™. Oral antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, or Zyrtec can help with some anaphylaxis symptoms, but are not considered life-saving treatment.
Emergency Epinephrine in Schools
Until recently, only certain students in Washington State could receive a life-saving epinephrine injection while at school. They needed to be diagnosed with a food allergy and already have an epinephrine injector in the health room. However, some students may not have an injector at school, or they have their first serious allergic reaction while at school. In that case, the school could only call 911 and hope they arrived in time to save a life.
In January 2013...