Food Allergies :: Fact or Misconception? {Food Allergy Awareness}


Food allergy awarenessAs a new mom, creating a safe environment and feeding my baby healthy food was always at the forefront of my mind. His smile was priceless, and so were his eager grasps toward the ice cream that sat in his midst. I never thought a small taste of ice cream would ever have such a life-changing impact on our lives. Ice cream is fun, delicious, and wins most kids’ choice awards. At least, we used to think so! After just one lick, my infant son’s face quickly swelled and blistered. It was only one bite. My panic was overwhelming as we frantically made a quick dash for the door to the adjacent drug store, where we popped a bottle of Benadryl open right on the aisle.

In the past, I had heard many things to look for when it comes to children and food allergies, but nothing I heard prepared me for that unfortunate moment. Many children and adults suffer from various types of allergies: chemicals, the environment, as well as food. An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to specific proteins called allergens, because the body sends the signal that it is harmful. Antibodies then generate to ward off these foreign bodies. There are various allergy symptoms which tend to vary from person to person. These might include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Itching/tingling
  • Wheezing/shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Runny stool
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, throat, or extremities
  • Serious reactions called anaphylaxis 

Accommodating someone with a food allergy can be frightening, especially if you lack education and training. Even leaving your child in the hands of trusted caregivers can be emotionally taxing and frustrating. There is no known cure for food allergies, but obtaining a treatment plan from your allergist and addressing concerns with a doctor, a health educator, and/or a nutritionist can make living with food allergies easier to handle. If you do not have a child with food allergies, chances are high that you will encounter a classmate/playmate who has them. By testing your knowledge of a few common food allergy facts and myths, you might learn and gain new information to improve lifestyle and healthy eating options for not only your kids, but others with food allergies.

Test your knowledge of food allergies in the short quiz below. 

True or False? Food allergies are rare.

False: The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization reports that food allergies have increased by 50% within the last 10 years and are on the rise. Roughly 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with allergies and they are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness. Each year, about 200,000 Americans receive emergency treatment because of food allergies.

True or False? Only children are inflicted with new food allergies.

False: Allergies are common in children who typically tend to outgrow them; however, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that adults with food allergies tend to have them be life-long.

True or False? A little bit is okay.

False: Trace amounts of exposure to an allergen can trigger severe allergic reactions. When dealing with food allergens, it is best to avoid cross-contact of food with known allergens to avoid mild reactions or anaphylaxis, a more serious reaction. A safe food dish that has been cross-contaminated should consequently be considered unsafe to consume. That means those allergy-friendly veggies fried in soybean oil are no longer allergy-friendly for a toddler who has a soy allergy. There have been numerous reported cases of children who have died after suffering allergic reactions to small amounts of allergens. In a recent reported case in New York, a preschool is under investigation after a three year old with a dairy allergy died after he consumed a grilled cheese sandwich. A little is never okay.

True or False? Peanuts and seafood are considered major food allergens.

True: The 8 most common food allergens, referred to as “The Top 8″, cause 90% of all food allergic reactions. FARE lists them as: 

  • Dairy
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish/fish
  • Egg
  • Sesame

True or False? Response to a food allergen might not be the same each time. 

True: Symptoms of reactions are unpredictable and can change instantly. An individual who responds mildly to an exposure of an allergen could have a more severe response the next time, and vice versa. Never assume an allergy has been outgrown because of a milder response reaction. The only safe way to be sure that one has truly outgrown an allergy is to have proper food allergy testing done by an allergist through skin test, blood test, or a challenge test. If you suspect that you or your child have a food allergy, speak with your primary care physician or seek an appointment with a local allergist.

True or False? Mainly white Americans suffer from food allergies. 

False: Asian Americans and African Americans have higher incidences of food allergies, although they are less reported. Studies show infrequent follow-up appointments with primary care physicians lead to fewer diagnoses and specialized treatments. Asian Americans and African Americans are more likely to be treated in emergency situations and not receive specialty care and schedule regular appointments with primary care physicians. By following up with regularly scheduled doctor appointments, proper diagnoses can be made and treatment plans can be assigned.

If you suspect that you or your child have an allergy, make an appointment with a primary care physician for a referral to an allergist. An allergist will administer necessary tests to determine allergies and prescribe medications for treatment.

Reference Links:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

Food Allergy Support Group of Tidewater

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team

Food Allergy Research & Education

Northwestern University

Guest Blogger ::

Tanisha Foster is a Health Educator and Founder of Chop Friendly, which she started in order to provide food allergy educational resources and tools to help parents accommodate children with food allergies. She is mom to Chop and Journey and wife to Brandon. They reside together in Birmingham, Alabama. She advocates for many families by providing awareness and resources to live a healthy life beyond the scope of limitations with food allergies. Tanisha graduated from UAB where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and from the University of Alabama with a Master’s in Health Studies. She enjoys adventure, traveling, and trying new, safe foods with her family.