Almost all of us know someone who has a food allergy. Food allergies can be very dangerous and have many negative effects on the body. They cannot be taken lightly. Your friend with a serious peanut allergy probably worries every time you go to a Thai restaurant. You might not realize it, but even inhaling peanut oils could cause them to have a serious reaction if their allergy is airborne. Some allergies are more than just getting hives or having an itchy throat. Food requests of people who have allergies should always be taken seriously because failure to do so could literally put their lives at risk.
The following five facts will make you more aware of food allergies and the impact they can have on those around you.
There are more food allergies now than ever before
Although the exact reasons are not clear, food allergies are much more prevalent now than they were in the past. 5.6 million children, or one in every 13, have food allergies that affect their day-to-day lives. There has been a 50 percent increase in food allergies among children since 1997.
With so many people who have allergies today, everyone needs to be aware of their presence and the seriousness of their impact.
There is currently no way to prevent food allergies or allergic reactions
No treatment can prevent or completely remove an allergy from someone’s system. Carrying an EpiPen or taking Benadryl can lessen dangerous effects after an allergic reaction has started but there is no way to stop them from occurring, aside from avoiding the allergen. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is currently in the process of looking for preventative treatment methods for allergies. They are hoping that injections could reduce patients’ sensitivity to the foods to which they are allergic.
The belief is that injecting the body with small amounts of a specific allergen could eventually desensitize the patient to them. It is hoped that conditions such as celiac disease, which currently has no cure but is managed by following a strict gluten-free diet, could one day be treated via injections.
But for now, the only other way to prevent severe allergic reactions is to avoid allergens altogether. This is dangerous because accidental contact could be deadly.
Eating out doesn’t have to be a struggle
Allergy sufferers have to be careful any time they eat in public because of the potential for contamination. However, eating out doesn’t always have to be difficult if you have an allergy, as long as you take a few precautions first. For example, you should make all servers aware of your allergy, including bartenders, so that restaurant staff members know they need to be careful with your food.
Knowing which restaurants to avoid is a key part of going out to eat if you suffer from allergies. If you are allergic to shellfish, for example, it’s smart to avoid seafood restaurants altogether. You know your allergy better than anyone else, so don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.
The best way to make sure you can be properly cared for is to call ahead of time so the restaurant can prepare for your visit. If you know where you are going, give them a quick heads up before dropping in to give them time to prepare.
These steps might require a bit of work in order to enjoy a meal out, but they don’t take a lot of time and are really important in order to ensure your safety.
Food Intolerance and Food Allergies are not the same things
Some people suffer from food allergies; others have food intolerance problems. They sound similar, but they are quite different. Food intolerance is a response from the body’s digestive system. It typically results in a less severe effect than an allergy would. A food allergy, on the other hand, attacks the immune system and causes a serious physical reaction or even death. Feeling nauseous could be a sign of food intolerance, while the inability to breathe may be caused by an allergy.
Knowing the difference between the two is important to understanding the severity of a possible reaction. Intolerance will not require a trip to the hospital, but an allergy likely could.
Allergies might lead to anxiety
Living with an allergy could take a toll on more than just a person’s diet. It is more likely for someone who has an allergy to also show symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety creeps in because those with food allergies have to be hyper-aware of what they are ingesting and, in extreme cases, what people around them are eating. In severe cases, those with both allergies and anxiety could suffer from panic attacks or might be at risk of suicide. Make sure you can get the treatment you need as soon as you notice symptoms of anxiety, panic disorder, or depression.
Food allergies aren’t hard to understand once you take the time to learn about the effects they can have on your body. That so many people are unaware of the serious impact allergies have on the population is a public health issue, not a personal issue.
To prevent serious damage as a result of an allergy, it is a good idea to get tested for allergies if you notice any symptoms.