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If you have a food allergy, you are a member of an ever-growing community that is currently 32 million-wide in the United States. It’s not a community you would choose for yourself, or your child. In fact, when you find out about your membership, it’s usually a daunting and scary experience.
For my family, it was shortly after my daughter’s first birthday when her lips began to swell, then quickly turn blue because she was struggling to breathe. At the time, we didn’t know the snack she had just eaten would cause a severe allergic reaction and lead to a rush to the hospital. Unfortunately, this is becoming an increasingly common story.
This moment changed our lives forever. Every restaurant visit, birthday party, and day at school has risks. When outside of our home, any encounter with food is potentially dangerous. My husband and I juggle that with seeking to provide her a rich, inclusive and joyful childhood. It’s what inevitably led me to leave my corporate career to start Partake, in order to bring more delicious treats that were convenient and could be enjoyed safely by those in the food allergy community—a group often left to feel “other.”
So while food allergies are at the forefront of what we do every day here at Partake, this month is when the spotlight is shown on our community on a national level. May is National Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month. It was started in 1984 by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This month is a time to support the asthma and allergy communities, as well as educate those around us.
What is a food allergy?
When an individual with a food allergy eats a certain food, a harmful immune response is triggered – an allergic reaction. While this food contains proteins that are harmless for most people, the person with the food allergy has an immune system that will go on attack as soon as they are detected. These proteins are called allergens.
What are the most common allergens?
While there are over 170 foods that have been linked to food allergies, the top eight accounting for 90% of all cases are wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish and shellfish. There’s also a growing number of people with allergies to mustard, mollusks, sesame, celery, lupin, and sulfites.
What are the symptoms?
Some symptoms are mild, such as itchy mouth or hives. Even eczema has been linked to food allergies. Other reactions are more severe such as throat tightening and difficulty breathing. The most serious is anaphylaxis which occurs suddenly and can be fatal.
Is there a cure?
There is no known cure for food allergies. However, it is possible for some children to grow out of a food allergy. This is more common for milk, egg and soy allergies. More often, food allergies related to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish remain for life.
Who is most affected by food allergies?
Out of the 32 million Americans who have food allergies, children comprise 5.6 million of them (that’s equivalent to 2 children per classroom). However, the prevalence of food allergies diagnosed in children continues to rise. Here are a few stats showing this:
- Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies in children grew by 50 percent.
- Peanut and tree allergies tripled in U.S. children between 1997 and 2008.
- Hospitalizations due to food-induced allergic reactions in children tripled between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s.
While African-American children are at the highest risk of developing food allergies, both African-American and Hispanic children have higher odds of emergency room visits due to food allergies.
On top of the physical dangers that food allergies present, they have also been linked to elevated social anxiety, as well as fear of rejection and humiliation in children. Unfortunately, about one in three children with a food allergy has reported bullying as a result.
While bullying is a threat for children with allergies, as adults, you may find those around you don’t take food allergies seriously. But as everyone in our community knows, food allergies are very serious and can be life-threatening. When you’re being vigilant about the health and safety of yourself or your loved one, you may be met with derision and sometimes even hostility.
That’s why having an Allergy Awareness Month is so important. The allergy community is not out to make anyone’s life more inconvenient, sometimes we’re just trying to make it a little safer. The more people who know that, the better off we all are.
This May, Partake is going teal—the official color used for raising awareness for food allergies. We’re also having an Allergy Awareness Month giveaway on Partake’s Instagram May 5-10, 2020 with our delicious cookies and other treats from some of our absolute favorite allergy-friendly brands.
We hope all of you living with food allergies rock your teal, share important facts with family and friends, and even attend one of the online events happening throughout the month.
For more information on Food Allergies and Allergy Awareness Month, visit: