Parents Split on Banning Peanuts in Schools

A new study shows that while parents of food-allergic children are quite knowledgeable about their child’s condition, they are torn on the issue of banning peanuts in schools.

The study, published in the summer issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and headed by Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, a researcher at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, brings attention to the level of knowledge parents possess about food allergies and how prepared schools are to respond to food allergy emergencies.

Data was collected from 2,945 parents in the United States who had at least one child with a physician-diagnosed food allergy. This is believed to be the first comprehensive study in the U.S. to characterize food allergy with a focus on general knowledge, attitudes and beliefs among parents with children who have a food allergy.

“Only about half of the survey participants felt confident in the abilities of school staff to address food allergy emergencies,” says Gupta. “And only half agreed that peanuts should be banned in schools, peanuts being one of  the most common causes of allergic reactions among school-aged children.”

But parents did agree on the importance of epinephrine autoinjectors (EpiPens), with 85 percent saying that children should be allowed to carry an EpiPen at school. However, current data shows that only about 54 percent of children carrying an EpiPen had a plan for use in place with faculty and staff.

“With current trends showing an increase in the diagnosis of food allergies among children, parents and schools need to improve readiness for dealing with these allergies,” says Gupta. “Ninety-one percent of parents feel that schools should train staff to handle food allergy emergencies, but only 56 percent of schools have done so.”

Other findings show that a large number of parents said their child’s food allergy had an adverse impact on personal relationships including one in four reporting a strain on their marriage, and 40 percent experiencing hostility from other parents when trying to accommodate their child’s food allergy.           

The research was completed by Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH; Elizabeth E. Springston, AB.; Bridget Smith, PhD.; Jacqueline A. Pongracic, MD; and Jane Holl, MD, MPH.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital, is a 23-story, state-of-the-art hospital located in downtown Chicago on the campus of its academic partner, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S.News & World Report 2013-14 Honor Roll rankings. Lurie Children’s provides pediatric care in a setting that offers the latest benefits and innovations in medical technology, research and family-friendly design. The hospital relies on philanthropic support to care for more than 149,000 children each year.

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