Due to the increase of food allergy cases, researchers have found that better education is needed to help inform parents how to manage food allergies.
The research was led by Scott H. Sicherer, of the Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. In the study, educational material was given to 60 parents whose children were recently diagnosed with food allergies. The educational material was on the proper way to use an epinephrine injector.
"Ask your allergist how best to manage your child's allergies."
Food allergies occur when the body thinks a food molecule is harmful. Reactions can include difficulty breathing, hives, itchiness, intestinal distress or anaphylactic shock.
The parents were near-perfect in following the proper steps for epinephrine injector usage. Parents went from just being somewhat comfortable with using an epinephrine pen to now being comfortable using the device. The educational material is available online at no cost.
There was also an increase in knowledge about epinephrine pens and food allergies. In response to this study, an editorial was written to further explore the need for proper education not just for the parent but across the community.
The editorial cites a previous study that discovered food allergies are diagnosed in nearly five percent of children. Due to the amount of newly diagnosed cases and how an allergy can affect a child's daily life, the editorial highlights the need for better public education about food allergies and the proper use of an epinephrine injection.
The leading cause of death due to the accidental food allergy exposure was because of a delayed response in using an epinephrine injection according to the study led by S. Allan Bock, MD, Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
Usage anxiety, a lack of understanding about the device and when they should use an epinephrine injection as the reasons for delays.
There are also not enough allergists or immunologists who properly understand food allergies. This can lead to improperly handling anaphylactic shock cases.
In order to better educate people about food allergies and how to treat reactions, Dr. Sicherer, as concluded in his initial study, recommends a uniform style of public health education.
According to the editorial, childhood asthma faced a similar need to educate parents and caregivers due to an increase in diagnosed cases and hopes to use asthma education as a guide for food allergy education.
Parents, caregivers or hospital staff in an emergency department may not understand the complexity of an allergic reaction or may be hesitant to use an epinephrine injection. If there is easily accessible education that can be provided, like in asthma intervention programs, that can lead to better outcomes.
Fear and confusion on the part of caregivers or members in a community or school can be detrimental to a child who suffers from food allergies. Aside from possible improper treatment, a child may feel isolated or even be bullied because of their allergies.
Understanding food allergies will help reduce confusion and enhance the quality of life in children who suffer from them. As previously reported, asthma medication usage has been increased thanks to a better understanding. The same can hold true for food allergies and epinephrine usage.
This study was published in the January 2012 edition of The Journal of Pediatrics.