Spreading awareness about food allergies

Food allergies are by no means fun. Constantly worrying about what to eat and not eat, focused, on every ingredient, presented in every meal, every minute of the day, can be extremely overwhelming. However, with an estimated 15 million Americans and one in three children who suffer from food allergies, it’s not an uncommon situation.

Due to its prevalence, May 11-17, 2014, has been designated as Food Allergy Awareness Week, a national acknowledgement of those who live each day with the concern that their exposure to certain foods can be potentially fatal to their lives.

Food allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

• Rashes

• A tingling sensation in the mouth

• Hives

• Difficulty breathing

• Itching and/or swelling of the tongue and throat

• Loss of consciousness

While symptoms typically appear within minutes after consuming the food in which he or she is allergic to, it may take up to two hours for symptoms to appear. If you think your child may be having an allergic reaction, contact your pediatrician as quickly as possible or in more severe circumstances, visit Dayton Children’s Hospital.

As listed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are eight foods that cause approximately 90 percent of allergic reactions. They are:

• Peanuts

• Milk

• Fish, such as cod, bass and flounder

• Soy

• Wheat

• Tree nuts, such as cashews, walnuts and almonds

• Eggs

• Shellfish, such as crab, lobster and shrimp

Although there are no medications known to stop food allergies, the best prevention method is to avoid eating allergy-causing foods if you have been known to have a reaction.

“Individuals with a food allergy should not eat foods that do not contain a label to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring,” says Becky Gonter-Dray, RD, CSP, LD, clinical dietitian at Dayton Children’s. “It’s important for parents to become familiar with the early signs of allergic disease such as eczema, hives, wheezing and repeated diarrhea and/or vomiting and to talk to their child’s doctor about these symptoms.”

Contact your physician if you think your child is suffering from a food allergy. A skin or blood test may be needed in order to determine if your child has a food allergy.