Monday, June 2, 2008

Food allergies: Know what you're eating

There are about 12 million Americans with food allergies, which vary in severity from a rash to fatal shock.

Awareness of ingredients is a must for safely eating their way through summer events, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, which is in the middle of its annual campaign to raise awareness of the risk some people face eating out.

“People with food allergies must be extra vigilant when eating at summer fairs and festivals,” said Amal H. Assa’ad, MD, FAAAAI and Chair of the AAAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee. “There are many questions about ingredients, preparations and possible cross-contamination that if left unanswered could lead to an allergic reaction.”

A single bite of the wrong food can induce anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction, in severely allergic people. The AAAAI estimates that up to 150 people die each year from anaphylaxis caused by food allergy.

More commonly, allergic reactions to food result in skin irritation, asthma symptoms or gastrointestinal upset. But even mild symptoms can quickly spoil the fun of a summer festival, ball game or wedding.

Food allergic people should always be aware that allergens can show up in unexpected places. In an effort to eliminate trans-fat, for example, many vendors have switched to peanut oil or soybean oil for their fryers. Some people with allergies to peanut or soy can also experience reactions to these oils.

An allergist/immunologist can identify the specific risks for an individual and provide information and support for avoiding the problem foods.

AAAAI offers these tips to avoid a serious allergic reaction to food:

Diagnose allergies Visit an allergist/immunologist for a medical diagnosis of food allergies.

Avoid the food The best way to prevent food allergy is to avoid the specific foods to which you are allergic.

Ask about ingredients To avoid eating a “hidden” food allergen away from home, inquire about the ingredients in a food item and inform party hosts, service staff or vendors of the severity of your allergy.

Read food labels The United States and many other countries have adopted food labeling rules that ensure common allergens are listed. It is important for food-allergic people to carefully read all food labels.

Be prepared for emergencies Anaphylactic reactions caused by food allergies can be life-threatening. Those who have had a severe reaction in the past should carry self-injectable epinephrine at all times.


The Melameds said...

SesameFree.Org Thanks You
Thank you for helping raise awareness! Many do not know or realize the severity of food allergies. Hopefully through blogslike this and sites like SesameFree.Org we can educate and influence people to be aware of the real risk of food allergies vs. food intolerance!
Thank you,
Hagit & Ofer Melamed
Saving Lives By Raising Awareness

Laura said...

There was a boy that I grew up with who was allergic to peanuts. This was back in the 1970s, early 80s, and we never considered it a big deal -- certainly not something that would kill him. Children today are much more aware.