As evidenced by the data presented on my various social media outlets the last few days, there is a widespread problem when it comes to teenagers/young adults carrying their epinephrine wherever they go. College students themselves admitted to an astonishingly low carry rate - only 9.6% always carry (Guidicessi, Rubes, Kim, & Annunziato, 2015). And in a review of 31 food allergy fatalities between 2001-2006, it was documented that none of the individuals ages 16-24 who experienced a fatal food reaction (there were 12) had definitive access to epinephrine (Bock, Munoz-Furlong, & Sampson, 2007).
It is clear that the very first measure for protecting college students with food allergies falls directly on the student themselves. As adults, they must understand the severity of a life-threatening food allergy and protect themselves by carrying epinephrine at all times. However, developmental theory points to the fact that this age group is known for taking high risks and seeking independence. Additionally, most commercial self-injectable epinephrine is not particularly convenient to carry, and the individuals in this age group is also known to reject anything that makes them different.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), due to the increase in the prevalence of food allergies, "some states have passed college and university-specific legislation that allows, but does not require, post-secondary education institutions to stock undesignated epinephrine" (n.d.). More states allow for stock epinephrine in public entities, which would include colleges and universities. At a minimum, it would be a prudent and proactive measure for colleges and universities to stock epinephrine in the two most common places where food is found: dining halls and residence halls.
Stocked epinephrine would not only protect those who have known food allergies, but also those who have an anaphylactic reaction to a food for the first time. While not directly related to higher education, research has shown that 25% of anaphylactic food reactions that happen in schools (K-12) are first time occurrences (McIntre, Sheetz, Carroll, & Young, 2005). A serious, sudden reaction to a previously safe food can happen at any time - stocked epinephrine would have the potential to save the life of any student who experiences anaphylaxis.
We have all seen automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools and other public venues. These devices save the lives of people who go into sudden cardiac arrest. Given the prevalence and rise of food allergies, as well as the understanding that anaphylaxis can happen even if you've never experienced a reaction before, I believe that there should be a large-scale movement to increase public access to life-saving epinephrine, especially at colleges and universities.
Bock, S.A., Munoz-Furlong, A., & Sampson, H.A. (2007, April). Further fatalities caused by
anaphylactic reactions to food, 2001-2006 [Letter to the editor]. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 119(4), 1016-1018.
Food Allergy Research and Education (n.d.). College and university access to epinephrine.
Retrieved from https://www.foodallergy.org/advocacy/advocacy-priorities/college-
Guidicessi, A., Rubes, M., Kim, J., & Annunziato, R. A. (2010). Dangerous liaisons: The
burden of food allergy self-management in college. Health Behavior & Policy Review, 2(5), 372-377. http://do.doi.org/10.14485/HBPR.2.5.5
McIntre, C. L., Sheetz, A. H., Carroll, C. R., Young, M. C. Administration of epinephrine for life-threatening allergic reactions in school settings. J Pediatr. 2005; 116(5): 1134- 1140
My name is Brittany Dye, and I am a food allergy mom and a graduate student in higher education administration at Middle Tennessee State University. These two parts of my world have collided, and I am passionate about successful food allergy management in higher education.