May is food allergy awareness month. Several efforts are being made toward greater public awareness of food allergies. If you are a parent with a child with food allergies or have food allergies yourself, you can share knowledge about the disease with your community to help save lives.
A food allergy is defined as an immunologic response to certain foods. Common allergens are soy, dairy, nuts, and shellfish. Less common ones are strawberries, corn, apples, marshmallows, and meats. An allergy response can become life-threatening.
The fact that there are fewer common food allergies means it can be challenging to prevent an allergy attack. For instance, in school, teachers might be up-to-date on the common food allergens but not the less common ones.
To keep people with food allergies safe, sharing knowledge about the disease should be encouraged.
Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance
Public knowledge on food allergies includes the common allergens and symptoms of a food allergy. Symptoms of a food allergy include hives, rashes, facial swelling, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. There is also a greater understanding of the fact that food allergies can turn fatal (anaphylactic shock), but few can differentiate between food allergies and food intolerances.
Food intolerance usually produces digestive symptoms alone, unlike food allergies that may produce a systemic response. A food allergy can also cause a digestive response. A dairy allergy tends to go away during childhood, but some forms of allergies can last a lifetime. The most common allergens for adults include shellfish, crustaceans, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
Treatments for Food Allergy
Treatments for food allergies usually involve avoidance, and, in case of exposure, targeting the immunologic response. Antihistamines or epinephrine shots are two of the most common treatments for food allergies. Antihistamines reduce the severity of the response by blocking the effects of histamines in the body. Epinephrine relaxes the airways and helps return breathing to normal. Immunotherapy is also a form of treatment that introduces small doses of the allergen to the patient until the body acclimatizes to it and no longer produces a severe response when exposed to it.
Anyone with a food allergy should see a board-certified allergist. The doctor will create an emergency plan of action in case of an allergy attack. It includes what to do and how to administer the medication in the event of an attack. EpiPens require training to use and to reap the full benefits of the medication. In schools, children can wear allergy alert tags that provide information about their food allergies. All caregivers, including teachers and school staff, should be made aware of allergens, symptoms, and treatments.
There are many ways to contribute to Food Allergy Awareness Month. You can get more information here.
Allergy Doctor in Oak Brook, IL
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of food allergies, have our allergy doctors at Oak Brook Allergists evaluate their condition and conduct allergy testing to identify the triggers. Food allergies can make children anxious and unhappy. Don’t delay seeing an allergy specialist for your child’s health and safety. Call us for an appointment at (630) 574-0460, or use our online request form.