This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, an initiative of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia. Food Allergy Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about food allergies, to reduce the risks of life threatening reactions, and help manage emergency situations when they occur.
As many of you would know, my gorgeous little girl, Sylvia, is at risk of anaphylaxis from a variety of foods. In my daughters case, it is dairy, peanuts, treenuts, lentils, chickpeas, lupin, green peas and pork.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a very serious and life threatening allergic reaction. It can happen within minute of being exposed to an allergen, or can be delayed, occurring several hours after ingestion.
Symptoms may include:
- Facial swelling, including swelling of the lips and eyes
- Swollen tongue
- Swollen Throat
- Reddening of the skin
- Hives appearing on the skin
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Strained or noisy breathing
- Inability to talk, or hoarseness
- Wheezing or coughing
- Drop in blood pressure
- Pale and floppy (young children)
Treatment require immediate administering of an Adrenalin Autoinjector, and a call to 000 for an ambulance.
Food allergies are stressful for the families of kids with allergies (and for adults with allergies – it’s not just children!). It’s a scary prospect to know that seemingly normal foods, are essentially poison for some people. The current statistics in Australia, are that 1 in 10 children currently have a food allergy. The rates of diagnosis are increasing, so its something all of us need to be conscious of. Chances are, someone you know, your children’s friends, their classmates or siblings will have a serious food allergy.
Lots of people are uncomfortable with school wide bans of particular foods, like peanut butter. I get that food bans are a pain. Truly, I do. Food bans are a permanent situation at our house! I don’t expect that everyone ban all of the foods that Sylvia is allergic to. It is a very hard diet to follow. But if your school requests that you don’t send certain foods, please respect that. The reality is, peanut butter is the HIGHEST cause of food allergy related deaths. Its also messy, sticks to surfaces, and creates a high risk of cross contamination. There’s a very good reason why schools ask parents not to send peanut butter to school! That said, there are lots of foods that can cause anaphylaxis. My daughters most serious reaction was to lentils!
There are lots of other important ways to keep people with food allergies safe, that don’t involve banning foods.
How can you help keep children with allergies safe?
Teach your children not to share food.
Always wash hands after eating
Avoid letting children run around with food, especially at the park, play centres etc. This is where my daughter has had most of her reactions.
Don’t offer food to young children
Don’t offer food as rewards
Be aware of the signs of a serious allergic reaction, and get help if you recognise them.
We are off the the allergy specialist and dietician next week. It will be a tough day, involving at least 50 skin prick tests for Sylvia. She will be in pain, covered in hives, and utterly miserable. We are hoping and praying that her results will improve. Food allergies can be a really tough gig, as a parent, and definitely for Sylvia, who rarely complains (but still looks longingly at all the cakes she cannot eat at parties). So I will take this moment to also give a big shout out to all of the people who make an effort to include her when we visit, to my best mate who always goes out of her way to accommodate us, to the people we love who’ve done anaphylaxis training, and to our family, who have adjusted all of the menus when we get together so that Sylvia can be safe. It means a lot.