Study Finds More Kids Are Dealing with Food Allergies - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Study Finds More Kids Are Dealing with Food Allergies

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KENNEWICK, Wash.-- Parents and schools are planning meals with caution to protect kids from their food allergies.

A recent study found that more kids are dealing with food allergies now than ever before.

School nurses are working to keep up with all their students' food allergies.

And parents and doctors have to keep up with the paperwork too so each child can be protected at school.

And recent data shows this generation has every reason to watch what goes on their plate.

Food can be fatal and now more than ever kids need to be careful about what they eat.

A new study by the Center for Disease Control says 1 in 20 U.S. children have a food allergy that's up 50 % since the late '90s.

"Ten years ago, I didn't know of any kids at the high school level that had a food allergy," said Mary Jo Wilkins, Kennewick High School Nurse.

Wilkins has to keep track of medical forms for every student detailing any food allergies and keep EpiPens and emergency medication prescribed for each child in a safe, in case of an allergic reaction.

The cafeteria now has to be hyper vigilant to serve foods free of nuts and a long list of other ingredients.

"Peanuts are separate from tree nuts. Some kids are allergic to one or the other. Some are allergic to both. Some are allergic to not only that but multiple things like soy and milk and gluten intolerance," Wilkins said.

The health district urges parents to develop a medical plan for their children's allergies.

"Parents need to learn how to read labels correctly to identify foods that may be allergenic for their kids. They also need to know what to do to treat allergies," said Dr. Amy Person, Benton Franklin Health District.

The most common medication for an allergic reaction is an EpiPen.

The state legislature recently passed a bill to allow schools to keep extras on hand, not just the ones prescribed to students by their doctor.

Wilkins said she thinks it's a step in the right direction to protect a generation of allergic students.

"If they have a severe allergy and I don't have medication to help them, that child might die at school and I'm not willing to take that risk," Wilkins said.

It's still a mystery in the medical community why the number of food allergies have increased.

But according to one hypothesis, it could be due to an increased use of antibiotics and disinfectants.