I shared a post on facebook. A food allergy kid was doing a science fair project on what people who did not live with food allergies in their homes knew about food allergies. It was a survey of questions that that a food allergy veteran like myself knew the answers to. I was surprised at the people who took the test and then they reported to me what they knew and what they did not know. The best compliment I received was from a recently delurked reader, now Facebook friend, who said I knew most of the answers because I read your blog. I thought I would answer the questions from the quiz here just to help others understand more about food allergies.
1. Have you heard of food allergies? ummmm I have but maybe others have not.
2. On a scale of 1-5 how much do you know about food allergies (1 being nothing and 5 being very familiar)? For me that is a huge 5 plus but I am sure it is much less for folks not living life with a person with food allergies.
3. Can food allergies cause death? That is a huge yes. There are a list of people who die each year from their food allergies. I often read their stories and sob knowing it could be my kid. It is why parents like me are the biggest pain in the asses about our children’s food allergies. It is why we sent them places often with a lump in our throats hoping they are safe out of our sight. It is one of the reason why I love Aaron out of the big public school. Small school means less chance of exposure and his allergies are known and are treated seriously. The administrator of his site and his teachers are very aware of his allergies and treat it with the seriousness it deserves. I did not feel that way in the public school. Their solution was to sit him alone at lunch every single day. That is not a solution.
4. If a knife is used to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then used to cut an apple, should a person with a peanut allergy be able to safely eat the apple? This is a no. A big no. Using a knife that cut an allergen to cut something else can cause what is called cross contamination. Although you can’t see the peanuts on the apple they may be there and be enough to cause a severe reaction. We are a peanut free house. Well almost peanut free, my husband and Ryan often hide in the basement to eat peanut products. We are also beef and pork free. We have eggs and cheese in the house. I make Aaron’s lunch first and use a clean knife to cut everything and I pack it up before I make Ryan’s lunch. I know it sounds like a pain in the ass but it has been our normal for eight years. I can’t imagine every getting to a place when I don’t read labels or cook with cross contamination in mind.
5. If a person is going into anaphylactic shock should you first administer epinephrine (Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q) or Benadryl? Epinephrine is the first thing you administer when a person is having an anaphylactic reaction. Period. This shot gives you time to get to a hospital so it is not a cure, but a way to keep a person alive to get medical attention. I carry two because it does not last long and a second dose may be needed before you get to the hospital. If I travel to someplace rural I bring four with me.
If you believe that you or your family member may be experiencing anaphylaxis – a severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction – administer the epinephrine auto-injector prescribed to the individual immediately and call 911.This page provides information on the causes of anaphylaxis (pronounced an-uh-fil-LAX-is), its symptoms, and how it is treated. For additional information, please contact your allergist or physician.
During anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms can affect several areas of the body and may threaten breathing and blood circulation. Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, although several other allergens – insect stings, medications, or latex – are other potential triggers. Rarely, anaphylaxis is triggered by exercise. Another uncommon form of anaphylaxis can occur when a person exercises soon after eating a problem food. Very rarely, anaphylaxis can occur without an identifiable trigger.
Although anyone who has a food allergy can experience anaphylaxis, the foods most likely to cause a severe reaction are peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. People who have both asthma and a food allergy are at greater risk for anaphylaxis.
At present, strict avoidance of problem foods is the only way to prevent anaphylaxis, although researchers are working on preventive therapies. (Learn about Food Allergy Research)
Epinephrine (adrenaline) is a medication that can reverse the severe symptoms of anaphylaxis. It is given as a “shot” and is available as a self-injector, also known as an epinephrine auto-injector, that can be carried and used if needed. Epinephrine is a highly effective medication, but it must be administered promptly during anaphylaxis to be most effective. Delays can result in death in as little as 30 minutes. Even if epinephrine is administered promptly and symptoms seem to subside completely, the individual who was treated with epinephrine should always be taken to the emergency room for further evaluation and treatment.
Anaphylaxis often begins within minutes after a person eats a problem food. Less commonly, symptoms may begin hours later. About 25 percent of patients have a second wave of symptoms one to several hours after their initial symptoms have subsided. This is called biphasic anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is highly likely to be occurring when any ONE of the following happens within minutes to hours after ingestion of the food allergen:
1. A person has symptoms that involve the skin, nose, mouth or gastrointestinal tract and either:
Difficulty breathing, or
Reduced blood pressure (e.g., pale, weak pulse, confusion, loss of consciousness)
2. A person was exposed to a suspected allergen, and two or more of the following occur:
Skin symptoms or swollen lips
Reduced blood pressure
Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping)
3. A person was exposed to a known allergen, and experiences:
Reduced blood pressure, leading to weakness or fainting
Yes, after I have consulted with that student’s school nurse or parent
Yes, if the student is excluded from the activity
Yes, if the student wears gloves
The answer is NO.
9. If a cookie does not appear to have nuts in it, should you still read the ingredients for nuts? YES. My sister bought a gingerbread house for the boys to put together when Aaron was little. I asked her to read all the ingredients. She read the ingredients on the candy not the ginger bread itself. The gingerbread house had peanut oil in it. Aaron touched his face and his eyes were swollen shut quickly. We spent that Thanksgiving in the emergency room. So always read packages, even if it something was safe in the past the recipe may change. As a food allergic parent I read labels every single time I buy something. I am used to it and often you can catch me cursing like a sailor in the bread isle when they don’t have our favorite dairy free whole grain bread.
10. What are the eight major allergens (eleven if you live in Canada)? The Big Eight in the US are : milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat. In Canada: eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood (Fish, Crustaceans and Shellfish), sesame, soy, sulphites,tree nuts, wheat. Not only these foods can cause food allergies but they do cause most allergies. Really, any food can cause allergies. Aaron is allergic to beef and pork which are not on this list.
Well, this is my public service announcement for food allergy education. Hope you all learned something.