A 7-year-old girl’s death following an allergic reaction that began at school underscores the severe and potentially deadly nature of many food allergies. Some doctors say that her tragic death should also serve as a reminder of how important it is to ensure children with food allergies stay safe.

Pediatric Food Allergy Statistics

New research published in the American Academy of Pediatrics “shows that approximately 8 percent of U.S. children have been diagnosed with food allergies, and more are being treated in emergency departments for anaphylaxis.”

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, “one in every 100 pediatric patients died following admission to pediatric intensive care with anaphylaxis. Reactions to peanut and milk caused the greatest number of food-induced anaphylaxis deaths.”

Protecting Your Children

Doctors say that while parents should try to protect their kids from allergens, they also stress the importance of preparing for potential slip-ups. “These are preventable deaths,” stresses Dr. Wood, when the right precautions are taken. While allergy care plans vary for different children, those diagnosed with a severe allergy should have access to an epinephrine auto-injector, commonly known as an EpiPen, which can reverse the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Know your state’s laws regarding whether children can carry an EpiPen at school, or whether it must be kept by a teacher or school nurse.

Talking To Your Kids’ Teachers

Dr. Wood advises parents to talk to their child’s teachers and others who may provide their children food and instruct their child not to share food, such as lunches or snacks, with others. Don’t count on the school’s ‘nut-free’ policy, if one is in place, says Todd Mahr of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “You are putting your head in the sand if you believe your school is ever going to be peanut-free.” Dr. Wood also reminds parents to develop a ‘food allergy action plan’ with their child’s doctor to outline specific allergic reaction care instructions, and provide copies of this plan to teachers and other care providers.

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