If you have a child with food allergies, how do you decide when they are ready to carry epinephrine and/or self-treat anaphylaxis?
Epinephrine is the only treatment for severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis (anna-fih-LACK-sis).
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) reviewed this issue in a recent article. It discussed factors used to decide when and if kids can take on more responsibility for their treatment.
A survey of pediatric allergists found that by the age of 9 to 11, they expect their patients to know:
- the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction
- the need to use epinephrine
- how to show the use of self-injectable epinephrine
By the age of 12 to 14, most allergists expect children to self-carry and self-administer epinephrine.
“Self-carry” refers to a child carrying their own set of epinephrine auto-injectors. “Self-administration” refers to a person injecting themselves with epinephrine to halt anaphylaxis.
It is important to note, that an allergy attack may be so severe that someone may not be able to self-inject, no matter their age. Federal guidelines for schools call for a trained staff member to give epinephrine in case a school nurse is not available.
Every child develops according to their own schedule. There is no specific age when a child must start to self-carry or administer. How do you know when your child is ready to be responsible for their epinephrine auto-injectors? Here are some factors to keep in mind:
- Can your child use a training device to show you how to use the auto-injector correctly?
- Can she recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis?
- Is your child comfortable carrying epinephrine at all times in a waist belt, backpack, purse or other carrier?
- Does he express confidence he can self-inject in an emergency?
- Does your child suffer from any developmental delays, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder or depression?
- Lastly, does your child have a previous history of anaphylaxis?
If your child has recently had a severe reaction and someone else gave the epinephrine, discuss how he or she might handle a future emergency if there is no adult present.
Talk with your child and your allergist if you think your family is ready to start giving more responsibility to your child.
It’s important to think about these issues earlier rather than later. Your child will become a teenager – and teens and young adults have a higher risk for severe and fatal anaphylaxis.
Consider having these talks now, before school begins in the fall.