Preparedness necessary to prevent child anaphylaxis during holiday events


The holidays are meant to be merry, not congested. But for many children with severe allergies, the festivities can result in just that — or worse — due to improper planning.

According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Mylan Specialty, 55 percent of children with life-threatening allergies reported experiencing anaphylaxis during a winter holiday gathering; that number rose to 70 percent for families living in urban locations. What’s more, approximately 90 percent of the over 300 families surveyed said their child/children would be attending a holiday event this year.

Parents went on to describe their preparedness habits as such:

Figure 1:

All information from Harris Interactive and Mylan Specialty. Presentation by PhysBizTech.

"While the incidence of anaphylaxis during holiday events is disturbing, perhaps more alarming is the low incidence of preparedness. The fact is that for people at risk for anaphylaxis it can happen anywhere and at any time," said Todd A. Mahr, MD, chair of the Section of Allergy and Immunology of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a news release. "As a physician and a parent of a child with life-threatening allergies, I am encouraging others to revisit their anaphylaxis action plan and to ensure access to appropriate treatment in the event anaphylaxis occurs – not being prepared is just not an option."

To ensure child and family safety during periods of celebration, Mylan orchestrators and researchers suggest physicians prompt patient parents about the below itinerary, established by FARE (formerly the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network):

  • RSVP – ASAP! Be a great guest by contacting your host as soon as your invitation arrives. Start by communicating gently and by educating others; remember, your host is hoping to plan the "perfect" holiday party or meal.
  • The rules. Go over "the rules" for parties with your kids in advance so that the most important safety rules, such as not eating a food unless he or she knows the ingredients, will be fresh in their minds when they arrive.
  • Make it and they will eat . Offer to bring safe food so that you know there will be something there that your child can eat and your host doesn't have to worry about separate food preparations. Share dishes that would be allergen-free.
  • Ship ahead. If you're flying to visit friends or family, you may want to make some simple allergy-free foods that travel well and ship them to your host ahead of time.
  • Start the trend. Include an ingredient listing card with your food contribution to the party. Also, add an ingredient card to all food gifts you send out from your kitchen. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness at a party and with friends.
  • Tag-team parenting. If your whole family is invited to a party, plan ahead with your spouse to divide the task of supervising your young child. With designated "on duty" times, your child will be supervised, and each parent will have time to socialize. This keeps little hands away from allergens that may be out (such as a bowl of chocolates or nuts).
  • Carry medications. Per the NIAID food allergy guidelines, always have immediate access to two doses of epinephrine just in case unrecognized food allergens are hiding in holiday treats.

"Food is very much a part of our nation's holiday celebrations, and that means families managing potentially life-threatening allergies need to be extra vigilant at this time of year," concluded Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan. "To support parents we are encouraging them to have a checklist to help avoid allergens and to be prepared if anaphylaxis occurs."

The survey was managed online from August 24 to September 3, 2012.

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