This week The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is telling Americans to “Respect Every Bite” as it celebrates its 13th Annual Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW), an initiative started by FAAN in 1997 to increase the awareness of the prevalence of, and complications associated with, food allergies. Food allergies should not be taken lightly – they can be life-threatening. Approximately 50,000-150,000 hospital visits per year are due to food-induced anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction that can be fatal). And, large amounts of the allergen are not needed to trigger a reaction, even trace amounts can bring about symptoms.
Ninety-percent of all food-allergic reactions are caused by eight foods: milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, and cashews). As of yet, there are no known cures for food allergies. Therefore, prevention (avoidance of the food allergen), as well as, knowledge of early warning signs, followed by a quick response to control/manage the symptoms are warranted to circumvent a medical emergency.
What are the warning signs that someone is having an allergic reaction? According to FAAN they include:
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
- Watery eyes
- Itchy, red, bumpy skin
- Swollen face (e.g., lips, eyes, etc.,)
Recommended Steps for Prevention for Individuals with Food Allergies:
- Carefully read product labels (Note: non-edible products, such as ant traps, can also contain food allergens, such as peanuts).
- Don’t share food
- Pack your own snack or lunch in situations in which you are uncertain of the ingredients of served foods
- Wash your hands before eating
- Wipe down the eating area with soap and water before serving and eating your meal
- Know the signs of an allergic reaction
- Carry epinephrine
- Wear a medical alert tag indicating your food allergy
Preventing food-allergic reactions in children can be particularly tricky. An inability to understand the potentially dangerous consequences of eating food allergens, in addition to peer pressure, can make it difficult for young children to avoid tempting foods that may contain an ingredient to which they are allergic. In these circumstances, adults in the child’s environment (e.g., school) need to be made aware of the child’s food allergies, as well as, be very diligent with supervising activities in which the child may come in contact with a food to which they are allergic.
For information regarding food allergies and how you can help with initiatives, visit the website of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. On the website you will find informational brochures for parents of children affected by food allergies, toolkits for school and corporate presentations, as well as, coloring pages and activity sheets for children.
Do you have a child with food allergies? How do you handle birthday party celebrations to which your child is invited? Do you have any experiences or tips you would like to share regarding food allergies and children? Share with us, we want to know!