Food Allergies: The Numbers and How You Can React with Respect!

Food_Allergy_Awareness_Week

My knowledge of food allergies and the importance of being sensitive to those with food allergies has increased exponentially since my husband was diagnosed with a shellfish allergy and my son was diagnosed with allergies to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts years ago. We unfortunately learned about some of their allergies the hard way, whereas others were diagnosed in a doctor’s office. As a Registered Dietitian, I had received training and counseled those with food allergies prior to these diagnoses, but there’s nothing that deepened my awareness, understanding, and compassion more than personally experiencing food allergies in my family.

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is “React with Respect.” The goal of Food Allergy Awareness Week is to help inform the public about the serious consequences of food allergy reactions, as well as how to identify symptoms and respond in case of an emergency. If you are a parent, child, friend, co-worker, school teacher or administrator, employer, friend, roommate, or caregiver, you need to know about food allergies and how to react with respect.

So let’s talk about the numbers when it comes to food allergies and how, in light of those numbers, you can react with respect and sensitivity to individuals with food allergies…

Food allergies affect up to 15 million Americans.

Food allergies affect up to 15 million Americans.

Food allergies affect 6 million children.

That includes nearly 6 million children.

React with Respect

Learn how to recognize the symptoms of allergic reactions and how to respond in case of emergency.

A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction. Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S.

A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction. Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S.

Here’s a personal story…

When my little boy was diagnosed with his food allergies, he was only 8 months old. I was eating a graham cracker with peanut butter at the kitchen table when he started getting fussy. Without hesitation, I picked him up and put him in my lap to soothe him and continued to finish my snack. Soon after, it was time for his nap. My husband took him upstairs and began rocking him to sleep, but our little guy was crying and fussy. His lips began to swell, and he broke out in hives. Recognizing this was likely an allergic reaction (and admittedly totally unprepared), we immediately took him to the emergency room for treatment and to an allergist soon after for testing where he was diagnosed with his other allergies. We were only one of those emergency room visits, and we were so fortunate that our son recovered has been healthy ever since.

React with Respect

Refrain from eating your friend’s/coworker’s/classmate’s allergen when you are around them.

8 foods account for 90% of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.

8 foods account for 90% of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.

React with Respect

When planning celebrations, meetings, outings, etc. that involve food, be sure to ask about food allergies to ensure each person will be able to eat safely.

According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.

According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.

React with Respect

Understand that food allergies are not a choice and that individuals and families who are affected must take special precaution to protect themselves and their loved ones. Be patient and flexible as those affected by allergies must ask lots of questions and be careful about eating out.

1 in 13 children has a food allergy. That’s 2 in every classroom! Prevalence is increasing, so more kids have allergies than in the past.

1 in 13 children has a food allergy. That’s 2 in every classroom! Prevalence is increasing, so more kids have allergies than in the past.

React with Respect

Support other parents by asking about food allergies before sending food to the classroom, and respect school rules regarding food allergies.

Memphis Nutrition Group is excited to have partnered with the Food Allergy Alliance of the Mid-South (FAAM), an organization that promotes food allergy awareness year ’round! My partner and fellow Registered Dietitian Brigid Kay and I now serve as Nutrition Advisors to this fabulous organization, and we’d love for you to join the FAAM!

Here’s a little more information…

FAAM’s goal is to make resources available to our food allergy community that focus on:

  • the immediate support needs of the newly diagnosed
  • ongoing support and education for food allergy families
  • community education and training
  • advocacy on local and national levels

FAAM plans on reaching these goals by:

  • hosting community support meetings for food allergy families
  • connecting newly diagnosed families with resources
  • working with local resources to host special events
  • creating and maintaining relationships with local board certified allergists, health professionals, schools and community organizations
  • maintaining FAAM’s relationship with community members through this website, our email list, and social media
  • joining forces on local, state and national levels to advocate for those affected by food allergies

Are you interested in joining FAAM? Head over to FAAM’s website, simply share a little about yourself, and you’ll receive regular emails about meetings and events, newsletters. FAAM will also notify you about volunteer and advocacy opportunities as they become available.


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