A food allergy is an immune reaction that occurs after consuming a certain food(s).Food allergies affect 6-8 percent of children under 5 and about 3-4 percent of adults. There is no cure for food allergies but as children grow; their immune systems develop and some children may outgrow their food allergy. Do not confuse food intolerance with a food allergy as food intolerances is a less severe condition that does not involve the immune system. With food allergies even a small amount of this food can trigger signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur quickly. Symptoms of anaphylaxis vary, but can include, hives, itching, flushing, and swelling of the lips, tongue and roof of the mouth. The airway is often affected, resulting in tightness of the throat, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. These reactions can be accompanied by chest pain, low blood pressure, dizziness and headaches.
One of the keys to preventing an allergic reaction is AVOIDANCE !!! Here are a few ideas to help.
- Don’t assume. Always read food labels to make sure they do not contain an ingredient you are allergic to. Even if you think you know what’s in a food, ingredients sometimes change.
- When in doubt, say no thanks. At social gatherings and restaurants you are always taking a risk. Many people don’t understand the seriousness of an allergic food reaction and may not realize that it only takes a tiny amount of that food to cause a reaction.
- Print business cards. Have cards printed stating “I have a food/peanut allergy and COULD DIE if I ingest food I am allergic to!” Please be certain my food and your utensils are peanut/nut free or free of the food I am allergic to. They waiter or waitress may not know how the food is prepared or what the chef’s “secret” ingredient is. Have wait staff or host deliver this card to your chef.
- Involve caregivers. If your child has a food allergy it is important that relatives, baby sitters, teachers and other caregivers understand the severity of an allergic food reaction. Make sure they understand how your child can avoid the allergy-causing food. They will need to know what to do in an emergency, what steps to follow and how to administer emergency medications. Let caregivers know they can prevent a reaction by following a few steps such as hand washing, and cleaning any area that may come in contact with food.
These are only a few ideas on avoidance. You may also want to join the food allergy network www.foodallergy.org or check out several other sites available on the internet.
Happy eating, Mindy