The Importance of Food Allergy Education

Last Thursday, Amy Jessup, the Food Allergy Educator at Carle Hospital spoke to undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to promote food allergy education and raise awareness about the underestimated disease. I was delighted to have gotten in contact with this wonderful lady because her education program was an integral part in keeping the community safe and healthy, and I wanted to share her knowledge to university students so that they too can learn more about this underestimated disease.

During her talk, she discussed the causes, symptoms, and treatment of food allergies as well as the science behind an allergic reaction and how an Epi-Pen auto-injector can save a life. She also touched upon the different kinds of food allergens and how one can avoid an allergic reaction. Due to the fact that she spoke to college students, she also talked about how to deal with food allergies in college and the ways they can advocate and raise awareness about this disease to not only educate the public, but also provide support for individuals with food allergies. Many students were not familiar with the basics of food allergy and Amy Jessup’s talk at the university showed that education about this disease is important to alleviate misunderstanding and to emphasize that food allergies are especially deadly when you, a family member, or a friend undergoes an allergic reaction.

Because of her passion for food allergy awareness and having sons with food allergies, Amy Jessup started the Food Allergy Education Program at Carle Hospital to formally continue educating families, schools, organizations, and restaurants in the community about the basics of food allergy and what steps her clients can do to live a safe and comfortable life. She also cites that Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has a great Food Allergy Education Program as well as a wonderful research team composed of talented doctors and health care professionals that strive to understand the science behind food allergies and growing knowledge on food allergies as a whole.

It was a pleasure to have a Food Allergy Educator come in and speak to college students because I believe education on this rising public health issue is one of the most influential ways in getting the word out. Education in itself is an important aspect of our society and learning about a topic you are passionate about and ultimately applying that knowledge for the good of society is certainly inspirational and a valuable part of society.

As Derrick A. Bell says, “Education leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. Empathy foreshadows reform.”

-Rachelle

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Amy Jessup explains the science behind anaphylaxis.

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With the lovely Amy Jessup, Carle’s Food Allergy Educator.

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First Aid Seminar at Campus Middle School

Last week, undergraduate students from the American Medical Student Association and Illini Emergency Medical Services at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign hosted their first ever First Aid Seminar at a middle school to educate 6-8th graders about common emergency situations on topics such as general injuries, cardiac arrest, diabetic emergencies, and anaphylactic shock/asthma attacks. The pre-teens learned vital everyday knowledge through this program particularly on how to react in certain emergency situations. I was given the opportunity to present a mini-lecture about the causes, symptoms, and treatment for anaphylactic shock and asthma attacks which correlate well with my food allergy awareness campaign. I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity because it brought about the importance of public health education in schools particularly on the issue of allergic reactions because recently, more and more children are diagnosed with multiple food allergies.

Not only is food allergy education important for schools, it is also extremely vital for restaurant staff  to know because of accidental cross-contamination and possible ignorance toward customers with food allergies. In fact, Maryland is in the process of enacting a Food Allergy Education Bill which require restaurants to understand food allergies. It is crucial to have schools and restaurants become aware of the dangers of cross contamination and the risk of potential allergic reactions because safety is the utmost importance. Most importantly, allergy sufferers should become aware of his or her food allergies and be conscientious of what he or she comes in contact with in order to limit the possibility of an allergic reaction. Knowing the dangers of food allergies and how to react if a reaction ever happens gives the individual a sense of identity and awareness of oneself which is a great thing to have.

The posters from my mini-lecture. Big thanks for AMSA for helping me create them!

The posters from my mini-lecture. Big thanks to AMSA for helping me create them!

Epi-Pens and inhalers are always carried around by individuals with food allergies or asthma. I call them "little heroes." The students got the opportunity to practice with the Epi-Pen and inhaler trainers. The third Epi-Pen to the right is a real one with an actual needle and 0.3 mg epinephrine.

Epi-Pens and inhalers are always carried around by individuals with food allergies or asthma. I call them “little heroes.” 6th-8th graders were able to practice with the Epi-Pen and inhaler trainers as part of the lecture. The third Epi-Pen to the right is a real one with an actual needle and 0.3 mg epinephrine (used for adults only). Juvenile Epi-Pens have a smaller dosage.

To learn more about the Food Allergy Education Bill in Maryland, click here.

Stay posted as I continue on my quest to raise awareness for food allergies. Many individuals need our help and in order to save a life from anaphylaxis, we MUST educate especially on the science behind an allergic reaction and how to react if you or someone close to you ever experiences such a life and death situation. Knowledge is power and curiosity can go a long way!

-Rachelle

The Science of Anaphylaxis – An Allergic Storm

Have you ever wondered what happens in your body during an allergic reaction? How does a small amount of allergen (e.g. peanut, fish, wheat, etc) trigger a deadly war that can potentially kill you? And how does epinephrine, the only medication that can stop an allergic reaction from wrecking havoc, work its wonders to save a life? Dr. Sarah M. Boudreau-Romano, MD answers these questions in simple scientific terms to raise awareness and educate the public about how serious food allergies can be. Click here to learn more.

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Epinephrine: A Life-Saving Drug

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Since 2002, ambulances have been stocked with emergency epinephrine, the number one medication used to stop an allergic reaction. Thanks to Nona Narvaez, a mother of a child who has food allergies, Minnesota passed a law that would require all ambulances to carry epinephrine. As the percentage of the population with food allergies rises, ambulances need to be ready to treat anaphylactic shock, a severe form of an allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. Due to the expensive cost of supplying ambulances with emergency epinephrine, only four states have not passed the Epi-Pen Law which gives another motivating factor for food allergy advocates to raise the level of awareness and education for food allergies. In fact, in 2001, Illinois was the first state to enact a law that required EMT-Basics to carry Epi-Pen auto-injectors, a major step in the food allergy awareness campaign which was all due to mothers who were passionate about food allergy advocacy.

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Not only are ambulances now stocked with epinephrine, schools around the nation are gradually seeing the importance of having stocked Epi-Pen auto-injectors just in case a student has an allergic reaction.  In 2011, schools in Chicago are required to stock Epi-Pen auto-injectors under state law. There is a constant worry among families who have children with food allergies about the immediate availability of emergency epinephrine when they travel, so doctors often prescribe Epi-Pen auto-injectors just in case an allergic reaction happens. Epinephrine is the most important medication that food allergy sufferers carry around because it is the one thing that could save their lives if they have an allergic reaction.

For more information about the fight for food allergy awareness and the role of emergency epinephrine, visit:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/food-allergy-moms-advocate-epipens-children-older/story?id=18100222

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-13/news/ct-met-epi-pens-madigan-20120814_1_katelyn-carlson-food-allergy-edison-regional-gifted-center

-Rachelle