New food allergy guide aims to save lives on campus

Food Allergy Canada introduced a new guide, on Wednesday, aimed to provide university and college students and staff with resources to make institutions safer for people will food allergies.

The guide will support 150K students in Canada living with food allergies

Dr. Susan Wasserman of McMaster University says the growth of all allergies — not only food — "has probably doubled or tripled in the past two to three decades."

Just two weeks into her life as a student at Queen's University in Kingston in 2015 Andrea Mariano died from an anaphylactic reaction. Now, Food Allergy Canada has published a guide for colleges and universities to help make sure campuses are safer for students with potentially deadly food allergies.

The organization made the announcement at McMaster University Wednesday. It's called, Managing Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis: A guide for post-secondary institutions. It's meant to support an estimated 150,000 students at risk of a potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

"Moving from high school to post-secondary is a significant transition, especially if it is your first experience at independent living," said Jennifer Gerdts, executive director, of Food Allergy Canada.

"People with food allergy are healthy individuals until they have an adverse food reaction and sometimes they can't self manage." - Dr. Susan Waserman, McMaster University

"The guide will be a first step in a comprehensive strategy to enable teens and young adults to better manage their allergies with the support of their communities."

Along with outlining student responsibilities, the guide will clarify departmental roles, responsibilities, communication pathways and coordination of efforts. Students services, food services, and emergency services all have their own section.

It comes after two years of consultation with 75 stakeholders from college and universities, post-secondary organizations, food service providers, allergy organizations, allergists, healthcare professionals, and students and their families. 

Gerdts says 14 universities and four colleges were involved including McMaster University in Hamilton. 

Dr. Susan Waserman of McMaster and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology said "People with food allergy are healthy individuals until they have an adverse food reaction and sometimes they can't self manage. I think that it stresses collaboration amongst the many different departments within the university who look after students so everybody has a role to play."

Wasserman, a medical advisor to Food Allergy Canada, says the growth of all allergies — not only food — "has probably doubled or tripled in the past two to three decades."

Andrea Mariano's sister, Kristina, believes the guide would have helped her sister. Andrea's death helped initiate the  process that led to the creation of the guide.

(Food Allergy Canada)

"I'm aware that Andrea's passing was the (impetus) for this development of this guide," Kristiano Mariano said. "What happened to her on campus that afternoon was preventable had the proper precautions been taken."

But, Mariano says, the guide does bring her family some peace and comfort. 

"It will safeguard students living with food allergies in post-secondary institutions where their dependency lies in food preparation," she said. "My family and I are happy that it's going to make some changes in food allergy communities."

Andrea Mariano, 18, was a first-year student at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. She died Sept. 18 after an allergic reaction. (Handout/Queen's University )

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