New research shows young people who have experienced life-threatening anaphylactic shock from specific food exposures have significantly different views of the risks associated with their allergies based on their age and can benefit from discussing their perceptions of the safety of their school environment in improving their ability to cope.
A rise in the perception of food allergy risk parallels the increasing independence and empowerment that comes as children mature into their teen years, with teenagers feeling less confident of their surroundings and the level of information possessed by school personnel and parents than younger children. High schools were perceived as less safe because of the lack of homerooms, unsupervised lunch areas where food fights sometimes take place, and more uninformed staff. Elementary schools were considered safer because of the stronger presence of parents and consistent routines involving supervised lunch rooms, trained personnel, and communication strategies. Interviews revealed the greatest barrier to safe environments regarding food allergies stemmed from uninformed or misinformed friends, school personnel, and other parents. The research provides information for parents and allergic children to help inform school policies around risk management and coping.
The study, "Illustrating Risk: Anaphylaxis Through the Eyes of the Food-Allergic Child," was conducted by Canadian researchers and appears in the January issue of the journal "Risk Analysis" published by the Society for Risk Analysis. The authors include Nancy Fenton of McMaster University, Susan J. Elliott of the University of Waterloo, Lisa Cicutto of the University of Toronto, Ann E. Clarke of McGill University, Laurie Harada of Anaphylaxis Canada, and Elizabeth McPhee of the Community Services Agency in Hamilton, Ontario. The research was funded by AllerGen-NCE, Inc., with the support of Anaphylaxis Canada.