Food Allergy Facts

Food allergies are a growing and serious health concern.

According to the most recent and comprehensive study, 1 in 13 children (8%), in this country have a food allergy. Many (30%) are allergic to more than one food.  Thirty-nine percent of children with a food allergy have had at least one life-threatening reaction. * Published in Pediatrics, May 2011

Food allergies can be fatal.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is usually rapid in onset and may cause death.  Prompt administration of epinephrine is critical in treating anaphylaxis.  You must call 911 after administering an auto-injector and the patient must be monitored for several hours.

Even trace amounts of a food can cause an allergic reaction.

A food protein can enter a child’s system through ingestion, contact, or inhalation.  When children are young, there is increased risk of touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose.  Reactions can also occur due to cross-contamination during the manufacturing process, on the packaging equipment, and in restaurant or residential kitchens.

There is no cure for food allergies.

The only way to prevent a reaction is by strict avoidance of the food.

 

90% of all reactions are caused by an allergic response to one the following foods:  milk, egg, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy.

Allergies to fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts tend to last throughout one’s life.  A person can become allergic to any food at any time in his or her life.

 

There is no way to predict how severe a reaction will be.

A seemingly mild reaction can become more severe.  A child that has only had mild reactions in the past can have a severe reaction in the future.

 

Food allergies are not the same as food intolerances.

A food intolerance is usually caused by an inability to fully digest a certain food or food component.  It does not involve the immune system.  An intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, can be very uncomfortable, but it is not fatal.  A food allergy is an abnormal response by the immune system to a food protein. This response can result in a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.


Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe (anaphylaxis) and may include one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • hives (localized or wide spread)
  • swelling (lips, tongue, face)
  • nausea, discomfort, vomiting, stomach pain
  • shortness of breath, cough, wheezing
  • pale appearance, fainting, weak pulse, dizziness, confusion
  • blue tinged lips or face
  • tightening of the throat, hoarseness, trouble breathing/swallowing
  • itchy mouth or tongue

It takes a caring community to keep all children safe.

Children and families dealing with this chronic medical condition benefit from compassion and support.  Please, respect school rules regarding food brought into the classroom.  Wash your child’s hands and mouth if he or she will be playing with a child with food allergies.  Working together and staying alert ensures a safe and healthy environment for all children.