May 9th-15th marks the observance of Food Allergy Awareness Week! Created by the nonprofit organization Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), Food Allergy Awareness Week seeks to raise awareness regarding different types of food allergies and how everyone can take necessary precautions to ensure that those with allergies are safe. According to the AAFA, approximately 26 million American adults and 5.6 million American children have some type of food allergy. Though the most common allergy is not to food products, food allergies can be life-threatening if not taken care of correctly. With that, we’ll be sharing a few tips to help you stay safe during this awareness week
1. Understand how allergies work
Allergies occur due to an interesting fault in the body’s immune system mechanism. Usually substances, such as pollen or dust, that wouldn’t trigger a response in the body cause a reaction that lead to allergic reactions. This same mechanism can be applied for food allergies. When someone has a food allergy, their body treats the food substance like an invader and respond accordingly.
2. Be aware for the signs of an allergic reaction
In order to best help those who have food allergies, it is important to understand what the symptoms of an allergic reaction are. Some symptoms include tingling/itching in the mouth, red rashes (known as hives), swelling of the face and mouth, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, and feeling dizzy/lightheaded. If someone is having an allergic reaction, the best thing you can do is help them remedy whatever symptoms are present. Applying hydrocortisone cream to any hives and using a cold compress to areas that are swelling is helpful. Additionally, taking antihistamines to reduce swelling and hives is helpful.
3. Take care when interacting with those who have food allergies
When it comes to interacting with those that have food allergies, it is important that you are aware of what allergies this person has. For example, if you know that someone has a peanut allergy, it would be safest for you not to eat products containing peanuts around them. Additionally, being sure that any food items you share with them doesn’t have peanuts is a must. Talking with those around you about any allergies they have is not only a sign that you care but can be very helpful if they do have an allergic reaction when you’re around.
4. Avoid cross contamination
Lastly, being sure to avoid cross contamination when preparing food stuffs for individuals that have food allergies is important. This means that if you’re preparing meals that could potentially contain the allergen, ensuring that the food given to the individual that has a food allergy doesn’t contain said allergen can make all the difference in avoiding an allergic reaction. Cross contamination can also occur from the surface you eat on and the utensils you use, so be sure to clean up all spaces before serving those with food allergies.
Although they can seem quite commonplace at times, an untreated allergic reaction can cause death. Bearing that in mind, be mindful when taking care of those with food allergies. To learn more about how you can help, visit our other blog posts!