Millions of people live with food allergies and the guessing game that comes with diagnosing them and avoiding the foods that trigger a reaction.
It’s a well-documented struggle for adults who are able to communicate their symptoms and track their reactions to certain foods. But, it can be an exponentially more difficult road when parents are relying on a child to try and verbalize reactions that can’t be seen, such as respiratory difficulties and gastrointestinal issues.
One of more than 300 conditions that put children at a higher risk for pediatric feeding disorder, food allergies can often be misconstrued as an intolerance to a certain food, general pickiness or other chronic conditions by those who don’t fully understand the gravity of the condition. That’s part of the reason why Feeding Matters so appreciates Food Allergy Awareness Week, recognized May 12-18. It allows for an opportunity to educate the public and it offers a space for conversations, tolerance and understanding.
An estimated 6 million children are living with food allergies in the U.S., according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT). And, only eight foods are responsible for 90% of all food allergies, according to FAACT. Statistics reported by the Journal for the American Medical Association indicate that shellfish, milk and peanuts are the top-three most common culprits of food allergies, followed by tree nuts, fin fish, eggs, wheat, soy and sesame.
Someone who lives with a food allergy can suffer a number of reactions, ranging from a rash to severe respiratory distress. In fact, experts estimate that a food allergy sends someone to an emergency room once every three minutes. And, the situation seems to be escalating in recent years.
Anaphylactic reactions have increased nearly 400 percent over a 10-year period between 2007 and 2016, and about 40 percent of children living with food allergies experience a severe and sometimes anaphylactic reaction, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).
Those who are forced to navigate life with a food allergy are also required to maintain a pretty consistent state of vigilance. That’s one of the reasons that schools place restrictions on the types of treats that can enter a classroom, and why some airlines have stopped serving peanuts as mid-flight snacks.
Knowing that trace amounts of an ingredient or cross-contamination could trigger a reaction, most people living with food allergies are advised to avoid buffets and deli stations, bakeries, ethnic restaurants because of potential language barriers, and Asian cuisine due to its liberal use of peanut-based foods and oils.
It is, however, possible to eat out with a food allergy. As awareness of the condition improves, so too does general tolerance for it and those who live with it. Restaurants are increasingly providing allergy information on their menus, and relationships with servers and restaurant owners make those conversations easier to have.For more information about food allergies, we encourage you to visit these resources:
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team
Food Allergy Research and Education
Kids With Food Allergies