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Food Allergies - Be Aware Show You Care

Food allergies are becoming increasingly common and understanding them is important so everyone can help protect those at risk– this is the message that Allergy and Anapyhlaxis Australia want the public to know this Food Allergy Awareness Week (12-18 May 2014). With one baby in ten born in Australia expected to develop a food allergy, Professor Katie Allen from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute says, “Learn about it. Manage it. Know what to do when a reaction happens.”

Be Aware.
The most common triggers in childhood food allergies are egg, milk, peanut and tree nuts. Also prevalent are fish, shellfish, sesame, soy, and wheat. Some children do outgrow their food allergy. However, peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood are the major triggers for lifelong allergies, with about 2 in 100 adults living with food allergies. Anaphylaxis is the name given to a severe life-threatening reaction to an allergy.

Currently, there is no cure for food allergy. Avoidance of the food is the only way to prevent a reaction.

How to Recognise Food Allergy
A mild to moderate reaction can have symptoms that include:

  • hives, welts or body redness
  • swelling of the lips, face and eyes
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • tingling in the mouth or lips

A severe reaction, or anaphylaxis can include the following:

  • difficult/noisy breathing
  • difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • development of wheeze or persistent cough
  • persistent dizziness or collapse
  •  a sudden drop in blood pressure
  •   pale and floppy ( in young children).

    If left untreated, these symptoms can be fatal.

Treating an Allergic Reaction
The severity of reactions is often unpredictable. Mild to moderate reactions can be treated with antihistamines however if these progress to anaphylaxis or if anaphylaxis is immediate, then adrenaline is the only suitable medication.

Adrenaline autoinjectors available in Australia and New Zealand are EpiPen® and Anapen® and are by prescription.

People worried about a serious reaction are advised to administer the adrenaline autoinjector, call an ambulance or go directly to hospital.

How to Avoid a Reaction
As there is currently no cure for food allergy, avoidance of the trigger food/s is crucial. Avoidance includes:

  • Avoid ingestion – people with severe food allergies who forget to take their medication with them are advised to not eat – it’s not worth the risk
  • Avoid cross contamination – avoid food that has been cooked in shared vessels that are being been used to cook food that contains allergens (eg a deep fryer) and avoid shared surfaces (eg public barbeques).
  • Read labels – read all product labels every time a product is purchased. Food labels, ingredient listings and allergen warning statements change without warning.
  • Ask before you eat - when booking a restaurant, make enquiries about how they manage food allergies, ask the chef or manager about the ingrdients in products before eating–do not assume what the ingredients are, never eat the product if there is uncertaintly about the ingredients.

Having an Action Plan
People with food allergies or suspected food allergies are advised to seek medical advice and complete an Action Plan that includes medication and first aid treatment. Action plans should be communicated with family, friends, carers including childcare workers and teachers, and colleagues.

Show You Care
Throughout Food Allergy Week 2014 the public are invited to show their care for people living with allergies by taking a number of actions:

• Paint one nail to symbolise that one in 10 babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy.
• Adopt an allergy for one day to better understand the challenges people with allergy face every single day
Download a badge to use through social media channels
• Hold your own community fundraising or awareness-raising event during the week and notify your local paper.
• Make a donation here.

Approximately 10 people die from anaphylactic reactions each year in Australia and some of these may have been triggered by food.

More information, toolkits for school, and infographics are available from http://www.foodallergyaware.com.au/about-us/

Image from foodallergyaware.com.au