“Even though food allergy has become a disease of public health importance, most college campuses are in the beginning stages of creating systems, structures and policies that provide comprehensive supports, safeguard against accidental ingestions, systematically train key stakeholders in emergency preparedness protocols, and make stock epinephrine widely accessible,” says Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital who led the study. The research was presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology meeting in San Francisco.
The research team interviewed a variety of people involved in campus life in the Chicago area, including students with food allergies, their caregivers, those involved in athletics and clubs, food services, health services and management. Participants noted a need for an approach to dealing with food allergies that spans the campus, not just one area.
“Our study found that while many colleges offer support for students with food allergy in the dining hall, the same support doesn’t carry over to organized sports, dormitories or social events,” says Gupta.
Communicating the needs of a student managing food allergy was also proving burdensome. “Parents tell us they need to educate everyone, literally everyone – professors, other students, the librarian and the person putting food on your kid’s plate,” says Gupta. “Overwhelmingly, the respondents’ answers indicated that the burden of the disease was placed on the individuals and families when transitioning to college.”
The authors said students indicated they are willing to work with school officials to educate other students and administrators. The students’ peers interviewed for the research also felt a lot of the stress could be alleviated by things like peer training, awareness (through signage, etc.) and increased epinephrine access.