Preoccupied with the stresses of college life, too many college students ignore dangerous allergies, researchers worry. A report released in November indicates that most college students who experience a potentially life-threatening allergic food reaction do not seek medical attention.
“A lot of people are having symptoms where they have some shortness of breath or rash, anything we’d consider to be a systemic manifestation of the allergic response,” Andrew Singer, a fellow in allergy and clinical immunology, said in a written statement. “But many weren’t seeing a physician for it and that’s pretty scary.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Center, more than 50 million people in the United States are affected with allergies and about 100 die each year from food-related allergies.
Foods such as dairy products, peanuts, wheat and seafood pose the greatest threat to those with food allergies, Singer said. While people can outgrow allergies to products such as milk and eggs, allergies to foods like peanuts and fish are usually lifelong. Singer said peanuts and tree nuts – such as cashews, almonds and walnuts – are the food products that cause the most problems among college students.
“Being away from home for the first time, students aren’t watching what they eat,” said Singer. “They’re busy with school and having fun, and tend to ignore health overall.”
University researchers issued a survey among students last Febuary concerning food allergies and treatment. Of the 130 people polled, 15 percent reported having had an allergic reaction to food.
Singer said his research, in part, responds to the past food-allergy related death of a University student.
Some students said that busy schedules often limit their ability to find meals that cater to their diatary requirements.
“We don’t have too many options, even in the dorms,” LSA sophomore Stephon Proctor said. “Fast food is meant to target the masses, not fufill our specific needs.”
According to the University Health System, symptoms to food allergies include swelling of the face or throat, vomiting, congestion and skin rash.
“Our biggest concerns are for those students who are aware of their allergies and do not treat them and for those students that are unaware that they have allergies to certain foods and choose to ignore the symptoms,” Singer said.