They’re quite serious — and potentially life-threatening. That’s why Food Allergy Action Month is so vital.
Even though food allergies affect one in 13 children, the condition may begin either in childhood or as an adult. Overall they’re an issue for more than 30 million Americans. And remember, any food — not just common suspects like milk and peanuts — can trigger an allergy. Some people are allergic to more than one food.
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless food protein known as an allergen.
Spend part of Food Allergy Action Month this May helping yourself, and others, make the right food choices.
Food Allergy Action Month timeline
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that parents should introduce some infants (as young as four months old) to foods containing peanuts in order to avoid food allergies later in life.
Note: Always check with your doctor.
The short supply of this life-saving drug caused widespread anxiety for both children and parents. So-called "EpiPens" can treat the most severe allergic reactions.
Stricter labeling laws
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection (FALCPA) required manufacturers to identify any of the eight major food allergens in a product. Restaurants also added allergen warnings to menus.
Peanut allergies jumped
Researchers found the number of children with documented peanut allergies had increased from 0.4% in 1997 to 1.4% in 2008.
How to Observe Food Allergy Action Month
Read the labels
Strict laws have made it easier for people with food allergies to identify problem foods and avoid them. Don't forget to look for label words like "may contain..." Reach out to the company if you're unsure.
Talk to your kids
Explain foods in terms of "safe" and "unsafe." Teach them to only eat foods provided by trusted adults. Make sure they have an emergency plan if needed.
Learn to dine out safely
Food allergies don't mean the end of your restaurant experiences. Contact the staff before your arrive to ask any important questions. Also, ask an allergist or nutritionist for recommendations. Once you've done your research, relax and have fun!
5 Very Common Food Allergens
Even very small amounts can trigger the severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
About 2.5 percent of children under three years old are allergic to milk. Note: Milk can pop up in unexpected places. Check ingredients carefully.
If allergic, you'll need to avoid both the white and the yolk. It's impossible to separate them completely.
The good news: Being allergic to soy does not mean you have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume. Peanuts still might be safe.
Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most common culprits. Finned fish and shellfish are unrelated as far as allergies go. Being allergic to one does not always mean that you need to avoid the other.
Why Food Allergy Action Month is Important
Researchers continue to look for better treatments. Right now, those affected must avoid certain foods.
Food allergies are unpredictable
Mild reactions may involve a few hives or minor abdominal pain. More severe consequences include a condition knows as "anaphylaxis" — complete with low blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
Food allergy vs. food intolerance
May is a good time to learn this crucial difference. Allergies are way more serious and involve your immune system. Intolerance is a digestive problem — annoying, yes, but not life-threatening.