Treatment Inadequate for Babies With Food Allergies
About eight percent of children in the U.S. have food allergies, but a new study suggests that babies with life-threatening allergic reactions to milk or eggs aren’t often treated properly.
A new government study of 500 babies with food allergies published Monday in the journal Pediatrics reveals that even when caretakers are given epinephrine injectors to treat attacks, the treatment isn’t administered as indicated, reports Reuters Health.
For the study, researchers followed a group of three-to-15-month-old babies with egg and milk allergies for three years. About 72 percent of the children experienced an allergic reaction during that time span, and about 11 percent had attacks that could be classified as severe. Though those children exhibited signs of distress—symptoms can include breathing trouble, swelling or hives—caregivers administered epinephrine to less than a third of them.
Physicians who worked on the study said the numbers were troubling.
“We need to emphasize for the families that this is a safe medication,” Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, an expert in childhood allergies at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told Reuters. “If they are in doubt, they should give it anyway. Nothing bad will happen from that.”
Why aren’t babies getting the treatment they need? The researchers concluded there were three main reasons: Either the caretakers don’t recognize a reaction, don’t have the epinephrine injector present at the time of the attack, or they’re simply being too afraid to administer the EpiPen to a small child.
“I think people have a hard time getting over the hurdle of a shot, but it is a very small needle,” Dr. Kari Nadeau, an allergy expert at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, told Reuters. “It’s key that people should carry the EpiPen and feel free to use it as appropriate—it’s the only lifesaving medication.”
But while prompt treatment is important, researchers also emphasized the importance of prevention. Many of the babies’ allergic reactions were accidental, caused by simple parental forgetfulness or misreading of labels.
“The lesson is, it’s very important to be very vigilant,” Sicherer told Reuters. “We as the physicians have to make sure we educate the parents.”
Have you ever witnessed or experienced an allergic reaction to food?