College students with food allergies lack campus-wide support
Interviews with representatives from two dozen colleges showed most were not prepared to handle students with food allergies, according to study findings presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Scientific Meeting.
“Our study found that while many colleges offer support for students with food allergy in the dining room, the same support doesn’t carry over to organized sports, dormitories or social events,” Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, associate professor, pediatrics and medicine, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. said in a press release. “That leaves students feeling vulnerable and scrambling to inform all the various departments of their needs.”
Gupta and colleagues interviewed stakeholders representing students from 24 colleges to describe the students’ daily social engagements, learning opportunities, as well as where they lived and ate.
According to researchers, “emerging” themes included the ability of a student’s social network to react appropriately to food-allergy emergencies, current awareness levels of the signs, symptoms and likelihood of death associated with food allergies, how important it was for the student’s social networks ability to be able to dispense epinephrine and a lack of epinephrine autoinjector storage and availability.
Other recurring topics included a continuing dependence on caregivers, experiencing higher caution levels when choosing foods and a need to clearly define responsibilities and roles among the people the student engages.
“Understanding the unique barriers college students with [food allergies] confront has the potential to inform strategies to effectively support this population,” Gupta and colleagues wrote. “Future directions include testing stakeholder-informed interventions to increase readiness and preparedness of college campuses.”
The study also found students with food allergies are willing to work with school officials to address many of their concerns, and that these students’ peers stress levels would decrease with increased epinephrine availability and training by their peers, according to the press release. – by Janel Miller
Reference: Gupta R, et al. Leaving the nest: Improving food allergy management on college campuses. Presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting; Nov. 10-14; San Francisco.
Disclosure: Healio Family Medicine was unable to confirm the authors’ relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.