Photograph: Jessica Blatherwick
Not just parents, but everyone, needs to be more aware about food allergies. If you are parent, you certainly do, even if your own child doesn’t have allergies. It’s worth asking yourself at parties and playdates if the food you’re serving is safe. Does your child or babysitter know what’s safe to offer another child? It goes on and on. So even if you do not face food allergies in your immediate home, it’s worth being prepared by knowing the basics. We turned to Jackie Ourman, board member, and Elise Bates, co-founder, of End Allergies Together. See it at endallergiestogether.com or at its event, “An Evening to EAT,” on Thursday, April 19, at l’Escale Restaurant.
Here’s what they want you to know…
Over the past twenty-five years, food allergies have skyrocketed to become a major health issue affecting more than 17 million people in the United States, according to The Journal of Asthma and Allergy. One in 12 children are diagnosed with food allergies, according to a study in Pediatrics, a journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and every three minutes someone goes to the emergency room with a food allergic reaction. People with food allergies, especially children, can be nervous about eating away from home and/or feel excluded from social activities simply because of what they cannot eat. End Allergies Together, the only nonprofit that solely funds research for the growing food allergy epidemic, recommends the following five tips for keeping children with food allergies safe.
- Ask the Question. If you are hosting a party or a playdate, ask if there is anyone who has food allergies and offer to accommodate them. However, please don’t be offended if the parents of a child with allergies still decide to send food from home. Better safe than sorry!
- Save the Food Label. A rule for most children with food allergies is: “If you can’t read it, you shouldn’t eat it.” Always keep that in mind when offering food at your home on play dates or bringing food into classrooms. Save the food label so all parents, teachers and children can check the ingredients to be certain the food is safe.
- Know the Signs of Anaphylaxis. Be educated and know what to do in case you are with someone who has a severe allergic reaction to food. To learn the signs of anaphylaxis, including immediate and life-threatening symptoms, like difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting, dizziness and fainting visit: https://bit.ly/2Gmj4Cy
- Learn How to Use Epinephrine. Epinephrine is the first line of defense when a person suffers from an allergic reaction. Learning how to use it properly and effectively could save a life, so practicing with a training device that is included in medication packaging is crucial. When in doubt, doctors recommend giving epinephrine first and then immediately calling 911 afterward. The outcome of not giving epinephrine is potentially far worse than the minimal side effects of the medication.
- Be Inclusive. Empathy and compassion are everything. You would be amazed at how easily adults and children without food allergies are willing to care for their friends and be inclusive given the opportunity to do so.