Food Allergy Education in School is Paramount in Adolescents' Self-Governance

During adolescence, management of food allergy transitions from being the parent’s responsibility to the child’s responsibility. With the increased prevalence of food allergies adolescents need special attention. Just as we take driving lessons to learn to drive a car; teenagers need consistent lessons to carry their EpiPen and inform others about their allergies. They need to embrace their self-government as it relates to their heathcare just as much as their social individuality. This group also needs to be extra diligent in making good choices when they eat meals, especially away from home. 

One study had teenagers complete a questionnaire about their particular food allergies. They participated in a focused, semi-structured interview with open questions guided by logic known to be accurate in advance of experience of the subject matter; requiring no evidence for its validation or support. Using the thematic approach, the adolescents were interviewed, recorded, transcribed and analyzed. 

The most common food allergies were peanuts and tree nuts. Post study, three key themes materialized: avoiding allergens, preparation in the event of a reaction and treatment if a reaction occurred. 

The majority of the teenagers did report eating foods that were labelled as “may contain…” the food they are allergic too. They perceived the statement as meaning that it is unlikely to contain the allergen. 

Many of the adolescents self-carried ONLY if they believed they were at an increased risk of reaction. 

Some of the teenagers admitted that they do not know how to treat an allergic reaction appropriately. 

Over half of the teenagers felt that educating other students at school about the seriousness and impact food allergies have on their lives would help make it easier to live with food allergies. 

In summary, a significant number of adolescents exhibit risk-taking behavior in management of their food allergies. Many of the teenagers thought it would be beneficial for their peers to be educated about food allergies. This atypical strategy would help them avoid trigger foods and enable the teenagers to gain easier access to help if they suffer a reaction. I feel it would be in public interest that the education system embrace the new way many children relate to food. It is their lifestyle and in reality it affects how everyone must relate to food by de facto. Just as we have the option to learn to drive in school, we should provide a class to inform children and adolescents about food allergies. 

Reference:  

Monks, M. H. Gowland, H. MacKenzie, M. Erlewyn-Lajeunesse, R. King, J. S. Lucas and G. Roberts,Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 1533–1540.