Unless you know someone with a food allergy, the act of preparing a meal and eating seems fairly straightforward. For those affected by serious food allergies, ingredients must be carefully read and packaging practices must also be scrutinized to avoid anything from slight discomfort to a life-threatening episode.
While it’s clear that food allergies are costly and inconvenient, it remains unclear what causes them, especially when they are increasing at an alarming rate.
Exponential increase in the past decade
Food allergies have increased in young children by nearly 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is an international problem, as European hospital admissions for anaphylaxis increased seven-fold over a decade of gathered data, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
It’s not just that allergies are increasing in occurrence or frequency of reactions. The American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology finds that 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are affected by allergies. With allergies becoming more widespread and frequent in occurrence, it’s clear changes need to be made somewhere. Unfortunately, the increase can’t be attributed to a single identifiable cause.
Potential causes for the increase
Research from the European Molecular Biology Organization found that an increasingly globalized world where people increasingly import of exotic products and incorporate foreign foods into their diets could play a role.
Other researchers postulate that the influx of food preservatives and non-natural products have made people more prone to developing food allergies.
Whatever the cause of this food allergy increase, most researchers agree that more research is needed to create an accurate and thorough pool of data.
How to stay safe
The CDC and ACAAI both report that eight main food groups account for approximately 90 percent of all allergic reactions to food:
- Tree nuts
In some countries, mustard seed is also considered a major allergen because of severe reactions.
In most cases, food allergy reactions range from mild mouth itching or irritation to swelling, difficulty breathing and even full anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is serious and results in a drastic drop in heart rate and blood pressure, along with impaired breathing.
The first line of defense for this potentially fatal reaction is epinephrine, a form of adrenaline that stops the body’s allergic reaction. Of course, it’s best to avoid anaphylaxis by monitoring ingredients, food consumed in public places and the food preparation process.
To stay up to date on the latest food allergy information, visit trusted sources, such as acaai.org. One recommendation that may surprise some is expert advice regarding children and allergens. Experts used to advise parents to avoid giving peanuts to young children but now, experts say to introduce highly allergenic foods like peanuts early in kids’ diets, with 3-5 days between each trial to ensure no reaction is taking place.
As you follow the latest guidelines, you’ll be able to help your children and their immune systems become more accustomed to allergenic foods, potentially preventing an increase of future food allergies.
Sinclair Broadcasting is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we’re introducing Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness and prevention.