Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, with an estimated 32 million Americans suffering from at least one food allergy. While food allergies can range from mild to severe, they can all be life-threatening and require careful management. Here’s what you need to know about the growing prevalence of food allergies and how to protect yourself and your family.
What Causes Food Allergies?
Food allergies are caused by an immune system reaction to a food protein. When a person with a food allergy eats the food, their body mistakenly identifies the protein as a threat and releases chemicals to fight it off. This reaction can cause a range of symptoms, from mild skin rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Who Is at Risk for Food Allergies?
Anyone can develop a food allergy, but some people are more likely to have them than others. Children are particularly at risk, with 8% of children under the age of 18 having at least one food allergy. People with other allergies, such as hay fever or asthma, are also more likely to develop food allergies.
What Are the Most Common Food Allergens?
The eight most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. These foods account for 90% of all food allergies.
How Can I Protect Myself and My Family from Food Allergies?
The best way to protect yourself and your family from food allergies is to be aware of the potential allergens in the foods you eat. Read food labels carefully and avoid foods that contain any of the eight most common allergens. If you’re eating out, ask your server about the ingredients in the dishes you’re considering.
If you or a family member has a food allergy, it’s important to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that identifies your food allergy.
Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, but with the right precautions, you can protect yourself and your family. Be aware of the potential allergens in the foods you eat, read food labels carefully, and carry an epinephrine auto-injector if you or a family member has a food allergy.