Food allergy is a growing public health concern. According to the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, as many as 15 million people have food allergies. Nearly 6 million or 8% of children have food allergies with young children affected most. Boys appear to develop food allergies more than girls.
Although childhood allergies to milk, egg, wheat and soy generally resolve in childhood, they appear to be resolving more slowly than in previous decades, with many children still highly allergic beyond 5 years of age. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish are generally lifelong allergies.
The prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis appears to be on the rise.
· According to a study released in 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an 18% increase in food allergy was seen between 1997 and 2007.
· The prevalence of peanut allergy among children appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.
With a food allergy, the body reacts as though that particular food product is harmful. As a result, the body's immune system (which fights infection and disease) creates antibodies to fight the food allergen, the substance in the food that triggers the allergy.
The next time a person comes in contact with that food by touching or eating it or inhaling its particles, the body releases chemicals, including one called histamine, to "protect" itself. These chemicals trigger allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system. These symptoms might include a runny nose; an itchy skin rash; a tingling in the tongue, lips, or throat; swelling; abdominal pain; or wheezing.
Food allergy reactions can vary from person to person. Some can be very mild and only involve one part of the body, like hives on the skin. Others can be more severe and involve more than one part of the body. Reactions can occur within a few minutes or up to a few hours after contact with the food.
A serious allergic reaction with widespread effects on the body is known as anaphylaxis. This is a sudden, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction during which there can be swelling of the airway, serious difficulty with breathing, a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and in some cases, even death.
Because the prevalence of food allergies continues to increase in the nation and in IUSD, it is critical that we have a healthy awareness and responsiveness to this condition. It is everyone’s responsibility to work together in keeping all children safe and healthy.