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Allergies on the Rise

Lately, it seems that there are more conversations about food allergies.

In my own household, we have a milk and related product allergies, and wheat allergies. At work, I have collected even more information on children and adults who cannot eat peanuts due to severe allergic reactions. Other nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish and even fruits and vegetables are found on the list for allergies. Why do we have so many allergies. Scientists are scratching their heads trying to figure out why all of the allergies.

Peanuts seem to be the biggest offender. According to Food Business News, anaphylactic responses to peanuts grew 445 percent. (1). Some of the mild symptoms can include a runny nose, hives, itchiness, redness or swelling of the skin or shortness of breath. Other symptoms can be diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms can be life threatening and may require a visit to the emergency room. Swelling of the throat, a drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, dizziness and loss of consciousness are serious. (2) Because of the risk of these and other symptoms, schools and other public locations want to create a peanut-free zone.

Children are not the only population affected by these allergic reactions. The rise is found among adults too. NBC news gave a detailed report of a woman who had a severe reaction to shellfish and ended up in the emergency room. She has drastically reduced eating out because she learned that a lot of facilities work with shellfish. She wants to avoid at all costs another trip to the hospital because of allergies.

What can we do to prevent allergies? Researchers don’t know but here are a few things we can do to prevent a reaction. If you suspect an allergy:

1. Check with your doctor and get checked for allergies. Once the source of allergies has been identified, if possible, avoid the food or whatever causes the allergy.

2. Make sure you read labels of your favorite products. If eating out, check the menu and check with the staff to make sure they do not use the offending food or share equipment with that food.

3. If you are given medication or an EpiPen, follow the directions given by your doctor. Carry your EpiPen with you at all times to counteract any life-threatening symptoms.

4. Read material and stay current on the subject. Check with organizations such as Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America at www.aafa.org, and The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology at www.aaaai.org.

Be proactive to avoid symptoms associated with allergy-related foods.

Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

is a dietitian in Southern California.

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