Parents of children with food allergies often engage in behaviors that put their children at risk of allergic reactions, a new survey has found. The reasons are varied, and include not carrying autoinjectors, financial barriers, and misconceptions about the allergen risk.

The study, conducted by Dr. Julie Wang and colleagues of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, surveyed 100 parents of children with food allergies who are aged 6 months to 18 years. The surveys were given during follow-up visits at an allergy clinic. Of the children involved, over 70 percent had experienced a food allergy reaction in the previous year and 40 percent had at least three.

One in four children involved had been treated with epinephrine and 5 percent had been hospitalized.

The researchers found clear correlation between some parental risky behaviors and food allergy reaction frequency in the children. More so, children with multiple food allergies were more likely to have parents reporting risky behaviors in regards to their allergies.

The most common problem was giving allergy-inducing foods to children without reading labels, accounting for about 11 percent of parents. Another 7 percent said that cost of allergen-free foods was a barrier to avoidance. Nearly 1 in four parents intentionally exposed their children to known allergenic foods to “test” whether they had grown out of the allergy.

Many of the parents involved weren’t able to eliminate allergic foods with about 10 percent not sure how to do it and 14 percent reporting confusion about what should be avoided. Only 58 percent of parents with children with severe food allergies carried an epinephrine autoinjector at all times.

The study’s authors recommend that allergists and pediatricians be more clear with food allergies, their implications, and requirements. Written food allergy action plans and recognition of allergic response symptoms should also be prioritized.

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