Study shows children's food allergies in U.S. are undertreated

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PITTSBURGH - A new study done by researchers at UPMC’s Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh shows that allergic reactions to food continue to be under-treated. The study also revealed that epinephrine, a medicine used to treat reactions, remains under-prescribed.

Adam Lee, 6, has had severe food allergies since he was a baby.

“They sent us for allergy testing when he was 13 months old and it came up with peanut allergy and egg allergy," said his mother, Karen Lee.

She is worried because this year, Adam is a first grader and will be eating lunch at school. Lee knows an Epipen, a life-saving dose of epinephrine, can make all the difference.

 “It’s a medicine that works on all different systems of the body to rapidly reverse the effects of an allergic reaction,” explained Dr. Todd Green, an allergist at Children’s Hospital.

 Green said he sees kids with dangerous food allergies all the time. He and pediatric fellow Dr. Tammy Jacobs just did a study and learned that people aren’t prepared to manage severe food allergic reactions in children.

"Only one-third [of children with food allergies] were treated with epinephrine. That's a very disappointing and alarming number, "said Jacobs.

In addition, they found that fewer than half of those kids were then referred to an allergist and even fewer were given a prescription for epinephrine. Jacobs and Green said that shows people need to be more aware and educated on severe-food induced anaphylaxis.

Right now, students in Pennsylvania are only allowed to carry an Epipen in school with a note from their doctor. Lawmakers are also considering House Bill 2067, which will require schools to have "stock" epinephrine available for any child experiencing an allergic reaction, so that even a child not previously known to be allergic could receive the appropriate treatment in a timely fashion.

Epinephrine treats other allergies, including insect bites.

An estimated 8 percent of children in the U.S. have food allergies.