WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- More than 10 percent of schools in the United States reported at least one case of anaphylaxis among students during the 2013-2014 school year, and one-fifth of the reactions were among students who did not know they had an allergy, according to a new study.
Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction -- usually caused by medication, food, or insect bites or stings -- that can be stopped using an epinephrine auto-injector.
The study was funded by Mylan Specialty, the company that manufactures EpiPens, a common auto-injector, as part of its EpiPen4Schools program. The company reports it has distributed free EpiPens to 59,000 schools in the United States since the program started in 2012.
"There's always a first time for a reaction--it can be at home, it can be in school, it can be in a restaurant, it can be on the soccer field," said Dr. Martha White, research director at the Institute for Asthma & Allergy, in a press release. "But the bottom line is that many students experiencing anaphylaxis in school had no prior known allergies and would not have had medication there or at home."
Researchers conducted a survey of schools that have received EpiPens, with 6,019 responding about 919 anaphylactic events in the last school year. Of the students that had a severe allergic reaction of some sort, 75 percent were treated with an epinephrine auto-injector and 18 percent were treated with antihistamines.
Nearly 22 percent of the students who had reactions were experiencing one for the first time and had no known allergies. Food was the culprit for 62 percent of the reactions, insect stings made up 10 percent and about 20 percent of the causes could not be identified.
The full results of the survey and recommendations of researchers, which include distributing more EpiPens because of the unpredictable nature of allergic reactions, will be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference on October 24.