In a situation where food can be a matter of life or death, stay aware and keep yourself, or those you love, safe.
BY: MEME INGE, MS, RDN
Did you know that almost 15 million Americans have food allergies? That’s a lot of people, so you likely know someone who has one.
Many people don’t realize how much impact a food allergy has on your life until either you or someone you love has one. And when that happens, the best thing to do is to be educated about food allergies, be prepared, and have a plan. Let’s dive into the key questions to know the answers to.
1. What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. There is no cure for food allergies, and the only way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the food.
2. What is not a food allergy?
Now that we know what it is, let’s learn what is not a food allergy. A food allergy is not an intolerance; an intolerance involves the digestive system, while an allergy involves the immune system. A food allergy is also not a food preference (such as vegan, vegetarian or kosher) or Celiac Disease (which is not mediated by allergen-specific antibodies).
3. What are people commonly allergic to?
The top eight foods people are allergic to are:
If you don’t have a food allergy but know someone who does, be aware. This person isn’t looking for your pity party, but they are looking for you to honor the fact that this food can cause severe problems and potentially be fatal if they are exposed to it. When you’re serving them food, make sure to avoid any cross contamination with that food.
Also make sure to double check the ingredients, and remember to always read labels and check that the offending allergen is not in your food. Not every package has a list of allergens included in the food, so make sure to check over the entire ingredients list.
4. What happens to people when they have an allergic reaction?
It’s especially important to know that a reaction doesn’t have to come from ingesting the food. It can even be from contact with the food, touching a surface that the food has previously been on, or touching someone that has eaten the food. Basically any contact, direct or indirect, with a food can cause a reaction. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis that requires immediate treatment, in which symptoms can include:
- Mouth: itching, swelling of lips and/or tongue
- Throat: itching, tightness, closure, hoarseness
- Skin: itching, hives, redness, swelling
- Gut: vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
- Lung: shortness of breath, cough, wheeze
- Heart: weak pulse, dizziness, passing out
5. What do you do if someone is having a reaction?
First things first: If you or someone you know is having a suspected or active food allergy reaction, administer epinephrine immediately! That’s the number one thing to do – even before you call 9-1-1. Give them epinephrine right when you notice signs and symptoms. Do this before you do anything else, before calling 9-1-1 and their emergency contact.
Given the fact that food is such a big part of our lives, a food allergy can be a lifestyle adjustment. But by having the resources you need to educate yourself and others, such as The Food Allergy and Research Education,
You can keep yourself (or a family member) safe.
Adapted from the original article
Meme Inge, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in San Diego. She shares approachable, nourishing recipes to prove that living a healthy lifestyle can be budget-friendly, delicious and fun. Get to know more about Meme at Living Well Kitchen.