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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Aug;124(2):323-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.05.028. Epub 2009 Jun 27.

Food allergy and food allergy attitudes among college students.

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Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, Mich 48106, USA.



Little information is known about food allergy among college students.


We sought to assess food allergy trends and behavioral attitudes on a large university campus.


An online survey was distributed by e-mail to local university undergraduate students. Symptom severity was determined based on previously published criteria for anaphylaxis.


A total of 513 individuals responded, with 57% reporting an allergic reaction to food. Of this group, 36.2% reported symptoms consistent with anaphylaxis, and these reactions frequently occurred while enrolled. Allergy to milk (P = .032), tree nut (P < .0001), shellfish (P < .0001), and peanut (P < .0001) was significantly associated with having symptoms of anaphylaxis. Some form of emergency medication was reportedly maintained in 47.7%, including self-injectable epinephrine (SIE; 21%), although only 6.6% reported always carrying this device. Medication maintenance was significantly lower among students who had not had a reaction while enrolled (P < .0001). Only 39.7% reported always avoiding foods to which they were allergic. Within the group that reported intentionally consuming known allergens, there were significantly lower numbers of individuals who reported carrying SIE (P < .0001) and significantly higher numbers of individuals with a history of a reaction that had not resulted in symptoms of anaphylaxis (P = .026).


Potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to foods are occurring on college campuses. Only 39.7% of students with food allergy avoided a self-identified food allergen, and more than three fourths did not maintain SIE. Such behaviors might place these students at increased risk for adverse events.

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