Food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, approximately 12 million people in the U.S. have food allergies. That’s one in 25, or 4% of the population. Food allergies are more prevalent among young children – one in 17 under the age of three has food allergies.
Kids who have food allergies need help to keep them safe. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network encourages you to become a PAL – Protect A Life from Food Allergies. You can be a PAL by:
1. Never taking food allergies lightly. Don’t joke about it, or tease kids who have food allergies. And most importantly – NEVER, NEVER try to trick someone into eating food they’re allergic to.
2. Don’t share food with kids who have food allergies. It may contain something harmful to them.
3. Wash your hands after eating. Beside being a healthy habit – you’ll clean off any food that’s on your hands.
4. Ask what your friends are allergic too and help them avoid it. Reading food labels can be tricky. If there’s a question, it’s better that the child not eat it. Consider celebrating with non-food treats and activities – like games, stickers and other prizes.
5. If a friend becomes ill, get help immediately. Tell an adult immediately if your friend with food allergies starts vomiting, gets a swollen face or lips, has difficulty breathing, starts coughing sneezing or eyes begin to water or their skin gets bumpy, red and itchy. An allergic reaction can happen anytime, anywhere, even several minutes after eating. Always be on the alert.
For more information go to http://www.foodallergy.org/.