Food allergy facts for Food Allergy Awareness Week

Do you know anyone with a serious food allergy? Maybe you have one, yourself? An estimated 150 million people worldwide, mostly children, deal with at least one food allergy.

May 13 through 19 marks 2018’s Food Allergy Awareness Week, a time for education and discussion about food allergies and how they affect people’s lives.

What’s an allergic reaction?

When a person who is allergic to a food item ingests the food they’re allergic to, their immune system mistakes the allergenic protein for something harmful. A reaction occurs when the body releases chemicals, such as histamine, which causes either mild symptoms such as swelling, hives or a rash, or severe symptoms such as respiratory difficulty or anaphylactic shock.

Anaphylactic shock includes symptoms of an allergic reaction plus a shock reaction — a drop in blood pressure and sometimes cardiac arrhythmia. If not promptly treated, it can be life-threatening.

Food allergy facts

  • Even though more 160 foods are known to contain the naturally-occurring proteins that can spark allergic reactions, about 90% of food allergies are associated with the “Big Eight” food items: peanuts, milk, soy, eggs, gliadin/gluten, crustacea, fish and tree nuts (which includes walnuts and almonds).
  • Shellfish, mollusks, sesame seeds, celery, mustard, lupine and sulphites are also some of the bigger allergens.
  • Food allergies are on the rise in some parts of the world, particularly in more developed countries. Experts in the U.S. report that between 1997 and 2011, food allergies in children increased by about 50%. Today, one in 13 U.S. kids has a food allergy.
  • Some experts believe that because of increased cleanliness, kids with developing immune systems are never appropriately challenged, so eventually the immune systems attack certain food proteins as invading germs.
  • Adult-onset food allergies are uncommon but not unheard of. A 2014 study reported that of around 5% of U.S. adults with a food allergy, 15% of them were diagnosed in adulthood. In many cases, it seemed patients had lost tolerance to foods they had eaten before.

 

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