Approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies that can cause mild to severe reactions; some allergies can even cause life-threatening anaphylaxis. One in every 13 children has a serious food allergy, which equals two children in every classroom. As the school year starts, many parents of children with food allergies will be concerned about keeping their child safe from the allergens that can cause a reaction, most commonly peanuts and tree nuts in classrooms. A reaction to a food allergy can range from a mild response such as an itchy mouth all the way to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction. Being informed about food allergy facts and statistics can help better prepare parents to handle their child’s food allergies and give a realistic perspective on the dangers of an allergic reaction.
According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 without a known reason. These eight foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction such as peanut oil left of a desk.
Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction and it can happen within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen such as peanuts, shell fish, a bee sting, or even latex. Anaphylaxis causes your immune system to release of flurry of chemicals that can send your body into shock. Most notably, blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow which blocks normal breathing. Others should look for a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea with vomiting although it is possible to have anaphylaxis without a rash or hives.
If you suspect that someone is experiencing anaphylactic shock take them to the emergency room immediately where they will be treated by an injection of epinephrine. If anaphylaxis isn’t treated right away, it can lead to unconsciousness or even death. Symptoms of anaphylaxis can come back after initially subsiding and experts recommend an observation period of about four hours to monitor that the reaction has been resolved.
Food Allergy Reactions Facts and Statistics
- Every three minutes, an American has a food allergy reaction strong enough to warrant a trip to the emergency department. This accounts for more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year.
- Food allergies result in more than 300,000 calls for an ambulance a year for children under the age of 18. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside of hospital care.
- Teenagers and young adults with food allergies are the age group with the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis.
- People with food allergies combined with asthma may be at increased risk for severe/fatal food allergy reactions.
Food Allergy Risk Factors
- A food allergy can begin at any age.
- Allergies are genetic: those whose parents suffer from allergies have a greater chance of developing a food allergy.
- Children with food allergies are 2 to 4 times more likely to have other related conditions such as asthma and other allergies, compared with children who do not have food allergies.
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