Are food allergies really on the rise? Well it is estimated that up to 6 percent of young children and 3-4 percent of adults in our country have food allergies. There are recent studies looking at a rise in the prevalence of food allergies over the past several decades. In fact, the rate of peanut allergy doubled in children over a five year period. In one study, only half the adults affected with severe food-allergic reactions sought any evaluation of this condition by a medical professional.
Over the years, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) have been at the forefront of progress in food allergy research. Findings from research studies have been used to change federal and state laws, improve school policies, raise public awareness, improve the daily lives of individuals with food allergy, and provide education for patients, caregivers and health care providers.
One recent study looked at the failure of many schools throughout the country in having a food allergy action plan in place for food-allergic children, as well as ways to improve on them, by working with your local allergist.
In 1997, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) created Food Allergy Awareness Week to educate others about food allergies. Spread the word about the 12th annual Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW), May 10-16, 2009. This year help those with food allergies "Take Action, Prevent Reactions." Mark the week this year by working to increase awareness at schools, talk to your elected representatives, and plan a fundraiser. You can hand out fliers, put up posters, or display educational materials. Make it a time to learn more about food allergies and prevention strategies, as well as preparedness at home, at school and at camp.
FAAN has also promoted the "Be a PAL_ Protect A LifeaC/ From Food Allergies" program that is designed to educate parents and educators, and teach students about food allergies and how to help their friends and classmates who may have food allergies.
The basic tenets of the PAL program designed to keep food-allergic kids safer are:
- Food allergies are serious. Don't make jokes about them.
- Don't share food with friends who have food allergies.
- Wash your hands after eating.
- Ask what your friends are allergic to, and help them avoid it.
- If a friend who has food allergies becomes ill, get help immediately!
Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY. Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center, and faculty at Cornell University Medical College. Follow him on Twitter.