Food Allergies: React with Respect
In the U.S., every three minutes a food allergy reaction sends a person to the E.R. One in 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy which means it may affect two children in a kindergarten class.
Food allergies are a reality for over 15 million people in the U.S., yet food allergies are all too often mocked or made light of in real life and in the media. While increased efforts to promote food allergy awareness are more prolific than in years past, there is still a dire need for more focused attention on this profoundly dangerous condition.
Your friends, family and coworkers can experience severe reactions to every day foods like peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, shellfish or tree nuts. Symptoms can be limited to skin causing hives or more generalized and may cause trouble breathing and low blood pressure; the most severe reactions can result in death.
Food Allergy Awareness Week serves to help people understand and identify symptoms of food allergies and know how to respond in case of an emergency.
Primary management of food allergy is avoidance of the food, and prompt administration of epinephrine to treat allergic reactions due to accidental exposures. It requires careful attention to reading ingredient labels and asking specific questions when eating out at restaurants. This may be challenging especially for children who may get offered the allergenic foods or be bullied or threatened into eating allergenic foods.
Many families with food allergy express difficulties and frustration with the avoidance strategy. An alternative approach is Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) providing them the ability to eat the food on a regular basis with a much lower risk of an allergic reaction.
If you have a confirmed food allergy based on a recent history and a significantly positive food allergy blood test or skin test, you may be eligible for OIT. Confirmed testing by blood test and skin test may be sufficient but, often an oral food challenge or OFC is performed. This is the gold standard for food allergy testing and involves carefully giving increasing amounts of the offending food while carefully watching for signs of a reaction.
Find out more about food allergies and how you can contribute and get involved throughout the month of May.