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Your Child May Need More Than One EpiPen

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I am seeing more and more children with food allergies these days.  Many parents struggle with the fear of “what if my child unknowingly eats something they are allergic to and has a full blown allergic reaction when I’m not around?”  A study published in Pediatrics confirms the advice I have been giving my patients for years: make sure your child carries more than one dose of epinephrine. The study published in Pediatrics (March 2010) looked at the results among more than 1,200 children who were treated for food allergies in two large Boston hospitals over a 5 year period.

During an allergic reaction, 44% of the young patients were treated with at least one does of epinephrine and 12% of those who received the drug needed more than one dose.

Food allergies numbers are on the rise; up about 20% over the last 1o years.  Nearly three million school-aged children in the U.S. have some sort of food allergy.  Peanuts, tree nuts and milk trigger most allergic reactions.  And some children are even allergic to shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables.

If you suspect your child has a food allergy, you should ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric allergist.   You will be given instructions on foods to avoid and most likely be prescribed and taught how to use a self-injectable epinephrine pen.

Besides needing more than one dosage, there are other reasons to carry more than one EpiPen.  Each pen lasts between 10 and 20 minutes; therefore, if you are more than 10 minutes away from emergency medical care you will need to administer another dose.  Also, the pens can misfire.

Make sure all caregivers know that your child has a food allergy and arm them with all critical medical information to insure your child’s safety.

I also recommend a medical alert bracelet.  These bracelets may not be the most fashionable, but when your child is going into anaphylaxis shock and can’t speak, the bracelet could potentially save his/her life.

Always stay in contact with your child’s pediatrician to insure you’re following their advice when it comes to your child’s food allergy.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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