With Food Allergy Awareness Week beginning May 10th, the focus is on the challenges that millions of people face each day with the goal to create greater awareness and understanding.
While many people struggle with an allergy to one food, there are other individuals who battle multiple food allergies. Emmett Schulz is one of them. He is allergic to a host of foods that include: peanuts, tree nuts, egg, wheat, poppy, sesame, sunflower, mustard seeds, chickpea, pea, lentil, garlic, and salmon. And Emmett is only 2 years old.
Emmett’s mother spends hours in the grocery stores, foraging the aisles for food her child can tolerate. And she’s not alone. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 5.9 million, or 1 in 13 children, suffer from food allergies.
Multiple studies have shown that anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic response, is on the rise, too. For example, from 1990 to 2006 in New York State alone, the rate of hospitalization due to anaphylaxis among children and teenagers increased fourfold.
When children are Emmett’s age it’s a parent’s dilemma in itself to find the foods their child will like and actually eat. When food allergies are added to the equation, parents must assess whether their child is simply being picky, as children often are, or if the child is feeling an odd sensation that signals the food is allergy laden.
Emotional challenges also accompany food allergies. Children with food allergies must cope with feeling different or being left out at school or birthday parties. Families of food allergic children tend to avoid eating out at restaurants or away from home at friends or relatives’ homes. And children with food allergies are much more likely to be bullied at school. In fact, bullying becomes an even bigger problem for children in grades 6 through 10.
The Food Challenge
An Oral Food Challenge (OFC) is the gold standard of food allergy testing. This procedure is used to determine whether or not a child is truly allergic to a food when the history and allergy testing results are inconclusive.
The OFC procedure involves feeding the child increasing amounts of the food in question under close observation by an allergist. Find more details about OFC here.
Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) can provide a long-term solution for peanut, milk, egg, tree nut and wheat allergic patients. It usually takes less than 6 months, and at the end of the program, most patients with these food allergies are free to consume the foods they once feared.
A proven desensitization process, OIT has helped hundreds of children experience a transformed quality of life. Parents say that after OIT their children are less anxious about food and going to new places, less concerned that they will have a reaction, have less physical and emotional distress, are less concerned about eating in restaurants, and feel safer when going to vacation destinations. The children are also less concerned about being left out of activities involving food and have less frustration from social restrictions. This emotional boost also adds to the child’s confidence, enabling them to better deal with bullying and teasing.
Whether or not you have a child or family member with food allergies, take time to get involved. Find out what you can do to raise awareness, educate others and inspire action to support the food allergy community. Check out the Food Allergy Action Calendar and become a Food Allergy Action Hero!