May 11-17 is Food Allergy Awareness Week

May 11-17 is National Food Allergy Awareness Week. Nearly 6 million children live with Food Allergies— That’s one in 12.

A food allergy results when the immune system targets a harmless food protein (an allergen) as a threat and attacks it. Unlike other types of food disorders, food allergies are IGE-mediated. Basically, the immune system produces abnormally large amounts of an antibody called Immunoglobulin E. Those IGE antibodies fight the “enemy” food allergens by releasing histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.


Although there is a wide variety of foods that can cause an allergic reaction, these eight foods account for 90% of reactions:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary from mild to severe (Anaphylaxis). Mild symptoms include hives, redness of the skin or around the eyes, an itchy mouth or ear canal, diarrhea, sneezing, or a slight, dry cough. Severe symptoms of an allergic reaction can include obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a weak (thread) pulse.

Sometimes kids have a hard time describing that they’re having an allergic reaction. Younger children may put their hands in their mouths or pull or scratch at their tongues in response to the reaction. Other ways a child might describe an allergic reaction include:

  • “This food is too spicy.”
  • “It feels like something’s poking my tongue.”
  • “My mouth feels funny.”
  • “There’s a frog in my throat.”
  • “My lips feel tight.”
  • “It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue (throat).”

Every three minutes, an allergic reaction sends someone to the Emergency Room, and every six minutes, that reaction is Anaphylactic. A visit to the ER accounts for numerous amounts of food allergy diagnoses, but if you suspect you or your child might have a food allergy, it’s important to speak with your doctor about the symptoms and give a thorough health history. Your physician or allergist may test for food allergies by skin prick test, blood test, an oral food challenge, or trial diet elimination. It’s very important that those who suspect they might have a food allergy never self-diagnose.

In order to protect yourself when you have a food allergy, it’s important to wear a medical ID. Medical IDs can advocate for you when you cannot, which could lead to life-saving treatment in the event of an allergic reaction. After your food allergy diagnosis, it’s vital that you always have your medication handy and administer it at the first sign of an allergic reaction.

Working with your doctor is also a great way to protect yourself when you have a food allergy. Your doctor can work with you to develop a food allergy and Anaphylaxis emergency care plan. Sharing that plan with your family, friends, and coworkers helps them understand what to do in the event of an allergic reaction.

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