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Chances are, someone you know, and love, has a food allergy. With how common food allergies are, you wouldn't think there would be a lot of misinformation out there. And yet, myths abound.
Food Allergy Awareness Week runs from May 9th to May 15th, 2021, and May is Asthma and Food Allergy Awareness Month.
In honor of the occasion, and in line with my mission to continue providing evidence based parenting and caregiving solutions, I've put together a list of 8 common food allergy myths, and the related facts. How many of these myths have you heard?
Myth: Food allergies and intolerances are the same.
Fact: Food allergies and intolerances are not the same thing. Thet are two separate medical conditions, affecting two separate systems. Food allergies are the result of an immunological response. In contrast, intolerances are a gasterointestinal disorder.
Food intolerances are also not typically threatening. In contrast, food allergies can be.
Myth: If you have a mild allergy, you can eat small amounts of your allergen.
1. There is no such thing as a mild food allergy, only mild reactions.
2. If you have a food allergy, you should avoid ingesting any amount of your allergen.
Never, ever feed someone with food allergies any amount of their allergen, for any reason. Food allergy support groups are filled with anecdotes of family, friends, and educators giving people their allergen because "a little bit can't hurt". "A little bit" of someone's allergen can be enough to kill them. If you do not understand someone's allergen, ASK. Do not, for any reason, make assumptions or executive decisions about what a food allergy patient can or should eat. Ever.
Myth: Not all food allergies are life threatening. Peanut allergies are the most severe.
Fact: Any food allergy has the potential to be life threatening.
Myth: If you have always had mild reactions to your allergen, you are not at risk for anaphylaxis.
Fact: Past reactions generally do not predict future reactions. Any food allergy patient can be at risk for anaphylaxis!
Myth: There are only 8 food allergens: peanuts, treenuts, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, and shellfish.
Fact: There are more than 160 identified food allergens!!!! With the passage of the FASTER Act in 2021, there are now 9 top allergens (#9 is sesame). The FASTER Act goes into effect 1/1/23.
Myth: You can tell if a product is safe for a food allergy patient to consume by reading the label.
Fact: Labels can tell you if a product is NOT safe, but not if it is safe. Companies only have to disclose if their product contains the Top 8 allergens, and do not have to disclose risk of cross contact.
Myth: You should only epi if your throat closes, or you can't breath
Fact: Signs of anaphylaxis vary. Speak to your doctor, or see FARE's action plan to learn more. You'll notice that symptoms are not just confined to the respiratory system. Allergic reactions can affect the skin, nervous system, cardiorespiratory system, eyes, and even the gasterointestinal tract. My reactions to peanuts have varied from hives to an itchy throat and swelling of my lips and mouth. I have also experienced severe headaches. I have family members who have had severe GI symptoms, but no skin or respiratory symptoms. Other family members have profuse hives, GI symptoms, and wheezing. Knowing all the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and acting early by administering epinephrine, can save a life.
Your individualized action plan will be the best source of information of when to administer epinephrine, so be sure to obtain one from your allergist if you do not have one (and follow it closely).
EPI FIRST, EPI FAST!!!
*When prescribed by a doctor, administered under the guidance of a medical professional, and/or used as directed. Always speak with a medical professional to see if epi is right for you. Also note, in some places, epinephrine is a component of first aid kits. In these regions, epinephrine has been deemed safe enough to administer when anaphylaxis is suspected. Do not rely on this article to dictate if epi is the correct medication for you, or your family.
Want to learn even more about food allergies? Be sure to visit Food Allergy Research and Education! Also, check out my list of 5 things I've learned as a food allergy parent, and visit my food allergy portal for even more food allergy family resources and blog posts!
Food Allergy Research and Education also has a section on food allergy myths and misconceptions. You can find that here.
Be sure to share to help raise awareness!
May 2020 (Prior to 5/31)
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