Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy Awareness Week May 9, 2022

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AllergyStrong Food Allergy Awareness Month

Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) brings attention to food allergies, a growing epidemic worldwide that affects up to 250 million people. But for those of us already living with this condition, FAAW is an excellent time to review important food allergy information, make changes to your food allergy routine and educate yourself on new information to improve your quality of life.

As the melodious Julie Andrews sings in The Sounds of Music, let’s start at the very beginning:

Food allergies are an immune system response to food. The immune system mistakes food for foreign substance and begins mounting an internal attack on it. For someone with a food allergy this results in a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe, to life-threatening.

To review symptoms of a reaction and anaphylaxis as well as how a young child might describe those symptoms, please see below.

The Language of a Food Allergic Reaction

There is no cure for food allergies. The most recommended treatment is food avoidance – that is strictly avoiding your allergens. While this sounds simple, food avoidance can be difficult to manage, time consuming, and costly.

For more information on US labeling laws and how to read food labels for allergies, please see below.

The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels

Some people with food allergies are pursuing a treatment called oral immunotherapy (or OIT). This is one of several treatments that offer “bite protection” for those with food allergies. This means, it would lessen or eliminate a reaction if someone with food allergies accidentally ingested their allergen. OIT and other similar therapies (like sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), etc) offer protection but not a cure.

To learn all about OIT, please read the article below.

Food Allergy Treatment: OIT 101
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Food allergies are more common among adults than children. Studies show that 1 in 12 children have a food allergy whereas 1 in 10 adults do. Not only do food allergic kids grow to be adults, but adults are acquiring new food allergies in adulthood. These adults suddenly find themselves allergic to food they may have safely eaten their whole lives and navigating that change can be difficult.

To learn more about the impact of adults with food allergies, please see below.

The Impact of Adult On-Set Food Allergies

As we move through this week, we’ll explore several ways to make life a little better for you and the 32 million other Americans living with this chronic condition.

 

The ADA and Section 504: What it Means for Those with Food Allergies November 4, 2021

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Equal Access and Protections Under the Law:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (commonly referred to as the ADA) is a law that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA applies to workplaces, public schools, state and federal government institutions as well as spaces of public accommodation (private entities such as restaurants, museums, movie theaters, parks, etc). The ADA not only protects those with disabilities themselves, but also those associated with individuals with disabilities (such as caregivers).

Like the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination due to their disability. This law applies to any center of education, employer or organization that receives financial assistance from the U.S. government. Examples of this include hospitals, public schools, nursing homes, human services programs, etc.

Section 504 centers around access and inclusion. Not only does this law require schools, employers and organizations who receive federal assistance to prevent discrimination based on disability, but it also requires them to provide equal access to program benefits and services to those with a qualified disability. It defines the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate in, benefit from and have access to programs and services.

Does Food Allergy Qualify as a Disability?

Under both the ADA and Section 504, qualified individuals are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life functions. Food allergies puts a patient at risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis, limiting a patient’s ability to eat and interfering with their ability to breath – two major life activities.

Depending on the situation and your ability to protect yourself reasonably, food allergy may be considered a disability under the law. The key words are equal access and inclusion to programs and their benefits when assessing whether food allergy will qualify as a disability under the law.

What is a “504 Plan”?

504 Plans – named after the law – are roadmaps used to protect students in educational settings (most often K-12 public schools) and guarantee equal access to education.

These plans document what teachers, substitute teachers, administrators, and others should do in order to protect students with food allergies. 504 Plans are created by parents and representatives at the school for each individual student (often in conjunction with the school nurse and/or a doctor’s recommendations) based on the needs of their condition.

504 Plans outline reasonable accommodations that can be made to guarantee equal access to education and inclusion in the classroom and throughout the school.

What is Does a Reasonable Accommodation Look Like?

Reasonable accommodations are changes in either environment or process that public and private entities can take to ensure equal access and inclusion to patients with food allergies and/or offer protection to them. These requests should not place an undue burden on the entity to implement or maintain.

  • In a school setting, a reasonable accommodation might be to request that students wash their hands after handling food at snack or lunchtime.
  • At work, a reasonable accommodation might be requesting a shelf or space in the office kitchen to keep safe food.
  • The ability to bring safe food into a restaurant or sport stadium might be a reasonable request in a space of public accommodation.

The right to equal access and inclusion in school, the workplace and spaces of public accommodation are guaranteed under the ADA and Section 504. Whether or not a patient with food allergies qualifies can vary – depending on both the situation and the patient’s individual allergies. That said, protecting those with food allergies and finding ways to include them in all places should be the goal of every institution public and private.

For more information, please visit The Allergy Law Project.

 

What the PFDD Meeting for Food Allergy Means for You September 23, 2021

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Early this month, the Food Allergy Collaborative (of which AllergyStrong/AllergyShmallergy is a founding member) and its generous sponsors hosted the Externally-Led Patient Focused Drug Development (PFDD) meeting for Food Allergy. This impactful event was held for the benefit of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) who governs therapies for this condition and sets labeling policy.

The purpose of a PFDD meeting is to present the patient’s experience and perspective to the FDA so that they consider the needs and priorities of our community as they approve new treatment and set regulations. The PFDD for Food Allergy meeting enlightened the FDA about the challenges and hardships faced by patients of all ages and backgrounds, the types of treatments and therapies we would like to see approved, as well as the risks we are willing to face vis-a-vis treatment options.

Watch the Externally-Led PFDD

We encourage you to watch and share the video using this link: https://foodallergycollaborative.org/pfdd/.

We heard from patients from all over the country who voiced their experiences with food allergy. Throughout the meeting, some themes echoed over and over again:

  • The need for more accurate and informative diagnostics that are less invasive;
  • The need for accessible, affordable food that is contains easy to evaluate, accurate labeling;
  • The need for less invasive, easy to carry emergency medication; and
  • The need for long-lasting therapies that treat allergies beyond the peanut.

Another topic that was mentioned again and again was a priority to find and approve treatments for the 26 million adults living with food allergy. As one participant stated, “…current treatment is oriented towards children. Those children DO grow up.” Another panelist described her adult on-set food allergies with chilling effect. “One day, I was eating this food without any issues. The next day… it nearly took my life.”

The Food Allergy Collaborative captured the broadest experience possible to represent the incredible diversity of patients and their individual journeys with food allergy. This included patients of different socioeconomic backgrounds as well as those who live in different communities across the country. We had representation from young and older patients, those with and without multiple food allergies, within and outside the Top 9 most common allergens, with and without related conditions (like eczema, asthma and EoE), those who have undergone treatment and those who have not.

The Food Allergy Collaborative is looking for more voices and additional perspectives using the link below. Comments will be accepted for up to 30 days (October 8, 2021) for inclusion in the Voice of the Patient report.  Patients impacted by food allergy are asked to think about:

  • the burden of food allergies;
  • their diagnosis journey and the challenges associated with diagnosis and oral food challenges;
  • the challenges with avoidance and finding safe food;
  • the challenges and experiences with epinephrine auto-injectors;
  • their experience with treatment and clinical trials (how did it improve – or not – their lives? If they dropped out, why? What would they like to see in a treatment option?);
  • Acceptable/unacceptable risks for food allergy treatment; and
  • Desired goals for food allergy treatment/management.

We want to hear from you! Please submit your comments here: PFDD Patient Comments.

With this portion of the PFDD process behind us, the Food Allergy Collaborative is focused on the Voice of the Patient report. This report – to be published in Spring 2022 – will combine relevant research and survey data with the testimonies from the PFDD meeting and digital submissions.  This will offer the FDA the fullest picture of patient experiences possible, which will assist them as they review products which meet our communities’ needs.  The Food Allergy Collaborative has high hopes that our patients’ testimonies and the information that follows in our Voice of the Patient report will serve as an excellent resource for the FDA and other agencies as they evaluate treatments and consider policy for patients with food allergies.

 

Diagnosing a Food Allergy February 16, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 1:00 pm

Anyone can develop a food allergy at any age to any food.

So when someone experience symptoms of an allergic reaction after eating, it is CRITICAL that they see a doctor to explore the possibility of a food allergy.

Symptoms of a food allergy vary not only from person to person, but from reaction to reaction. Some reactions are mild, while others (even to the same allergen) can be very severe.

When someone makes an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss a reaction, there are several ways their doctor may go about diagnosing a food allergy. First, doctors will take a detailed medical history. It helps to bring a food journal of everything you have eaten prior to a reaction for the doctor to review. Only one test definitively determines a food allergy (the Oral Food Challenge). All others offer a picture of how the body is reacting to food and the likelihood it will experience severe symptoms after ingesting that food again.


Oral Food Challenge

This test is considered the gold standard for diagnosing food allergies. This test measures how much of an allergen a patient can tolerate without reacting. If a patient can ingest a certain challenge level of allergen without reacting, they are considered not allergic to that allergen. During an oral food challenge, a patient is giving an increasing amount of an allergen beginning with the smallest dose. Oral food challenges are ONLY performed in a medically supervised setting where healthcare professionals monitor the patient for signs of an allergic reaction. These tests last several hours – so come prepared with books, devices, toys, etc.

Oral food challenges are also used to test whether a patient has outgrown a particular allergy. [See What is an Oral Food Challenge and How to Prepare for additional information.]

Blood Test

Blood tests measure a specific antibody in the blood called IgE. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is the antibody that causes your immune system to react abnormally to certain food resulting in food allergy. A doctor will take a blood sample and test it against certain allergens. This gives the doctor a picture of how the body is responding to that food. There are also related blood tests called component tests. These helps narrow down true allergies (which can cause reactions) to false positives (or allergies to harmless protein in food). A patient can typically expect results in several days to weeks and will need to discuss the results with their doctor. The results of a blood test DO NOT PREDICT SEVERITY of a food allergy – they only predict the probability of a food allergy.

Skin Testing

Skin testing or skin prick tests are an in-office procedure that can provide results in 15-30 minutes. During this test, a small amount of allergen is applied to the skin (typically on a patients forearm or back). If a wheal (much like a bug bite) appears, the site is measured and considered positive. This relatively short test is not painful, but can be itchy or uncomfortable.

Blood and skin tests sometimes yield false positive results for a variety of reasons. Therefore, it is important you work with an allergist trained at interpreting the results and offering practical guidance for next steps.

Food Elimination Diet

Food elimination diets are just as their names suggest: a strict diet to be followed that does not contain a certain allergen (or several allergens), generally for up to four weeks. Following the elimination period of the diet, allergens are gradually added back in one by one to identify which one(s) a patient is reacting to. It helps to keep a food journal during this process to record what you eat and identify any other reactions you might have. This process can be tricky at first as most people are not well-practiced in reading ingredient lists and eliminating allergens when they hide in tricky places.


It is CRITICAL to see a doctor when you suspect you have a food allergy. Studies show that the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance isn’t well understood by most patients. That difference can be crucial: A patient does not want to take on the tremendous stress and burden of avoiding a food unnecessarily. Nor do patients want to be caught having a severe reaction without life-saving epinephrine and a plan of action.

Under the supervision of a trained medical professional, diagnosing (or ruling out!) a food allergy can be done simply and send you on your way to better health quickly.

 

Food Allergy Prevention Included in USDA and HHS 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines January 28, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 12:59 pm

Last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated every five years, this science-based advice helps Americans make decisions on what to eat and drink in order to promote short and long-term health, reduce the risk of chronic disease and meet nutritional needs.

The guideline, entitled, “Make Every Bite Count”, encourages all Americans to make healthy choices at each age and stage of their lives. One notable addition to this edition is the guidance surrounding when to introduce peanuts and eggs in infants and young children. Much like the 2017 U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease guidance, the latest dietary guidelines suggest giving infants and young children allergenic foods early and often. Early introduction of peanuts and eggs, between 4 and 6 months of age, helps reduce the risk of developing food allergies later. It further emphasizes that there is no evidence that delaying the introduction of these foods will help prevent food allergies. The guidelines note that infants and young children should be given peanuts, eggs, dairy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy in an age and developmentally-appropriate way alongside complementary food.

The inclusion of guidance around food allergy prevention represents tremendous progress. The prevalence of food allergies has risen over the last several decades. Couple that with the fact that there is no cure as well as limited treatment options for those with food allergies, the need for strategies for prevention becomes critical. The inclusion of food allergy prevention guidelines will help pediatricians and parents work together to keep young children healthy as they develop and grow.

“Make Every Bite Count” doesn’t only focus on infant feeding guidelines. It also emphasizes:

  • a reduction in added sugar consumption across all ages, avoiding added sugars altogether for infants ages 0-2 and then limiting it to 10% of total calories for ages 2 and older;
  • limiting saturated fat to 10% of total calories for ages 2 and older;
  • limiting sodium consumption to 2,300 mg per day (or less if under age 14);
  • limiting daily alcohol consumption for adults to 2 drinks or less for men and 1 drink or less for women.

 

The FASTER Act: What It Is and Why it Matters December 9, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 1:48 pm

Moments ago, the Senate unanimously passed the FASTER Act introduced by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). This is fantastic news for all patients with food allergies – and particularly exciting for the millions of Americans who are allergic to sesame seeds.

What is the FASTER Act?

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act is a bill aimed at increasing safety for those with food allergies and analyzing data and allocating resources for research and treatment.

Also known as S.3451/H.R. 2117, the FASTER Act proposes:

  • An update to the food allergy labeling laws to include sesame.
    • Currently, sesame is not required to be labeled by its common name and can be hidden under general terms, making it both difficult and dangerous for the 1.5+ million Americans living with a sesame allergy.
  • Requires the government to analyze promising opportunities for research so that they may diversify approved treatment options.
    • Currently, there is only one approved treatment option (oral immunotherapy – OIT) which can only benefit some patients with peanut allergy.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why is this important?

The FASTER Act increases transparency on ingredient labels for those with sesame seed allergies. This could set the stage for the labeling of other allergens that are hidden in ingredient labeling (such as corn). Allergy to sesame seeds are on the rise, the reactions to this allergen tend to be severe and this labeling change falls in line with how most other industrialized nations are approaching the allergen.

To learn more about sesame seed allergy, please read:

Sesame: the 9th Food Allergen?

Open Sesame: Prevalence of Sesame Seed Allergy & Progress in Labeling

FDA Issues Guidance Regarding Sesame Labeling

Food Allergy Advocacy – A Day on Capital Hill

The FASTER Act will also allocate funds so that the CDC can analyze data and encourage promising research for all food allergic patients. The most popular treatment for those with food allergies is “food avoidance” which is difficult, costly and filled with potentially costly mistakes. The only FDA- approved treatment to date is Palforzia, primarily aimed at children with peanut allergies. This bill could create opportunity for future treatments to emerge for other food allergies, increasing the number of people who can tolerate their allergen, reducing cost, worry and greatly improving quality of life.

What’s next?

This bill represents a compromise of H.R. 2117 and S.3451 – one that representatives from both the House and Senate have created together based on the original bills (House bill H.R. 2117 and Senate bill S.3451). Now that this new bill has passed the Senate, it will head back to the House for final approval. Following that, the FASTER Act will hopefully land on the President’s desk to be signed into law before this Congress comes to a close in January 2021.

Allergy Shmallergy/AllergyStrong will keep you posted on this exciting development!

 

Celebrities with Food Allergies (4th Edition) November 17, 2020

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Just another reminder that you are not the only one with a food allergy! 1 in every 10 adults has a food allergy and 1 in every 13 children do as well.

Bethany Frankel (reality star, Skinny Girl founder): fish

Jason Mantzoukas (actor, comedian):  egg

Tia Mowry (actress):  parent to a child with peanut allergy

Zhaire Smith (NBA 76ers player): peanuts, sesame

Patrice Evra (Juventus Soccer player): eggs

Alex Kerfoot (NHL Avalanche player):  peanuts

Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons):  tree nuts

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Jon Stewart (comedian): parent to child of celiac disease.

Sean McDermott (head coach, Buffalo Bills): food allergy parent

Alan Branch (Football Player, Patriots): food allergy parent

Elliott Sadler (NASCAR driver): parent of child with peanut allergy

Courtney Hope (Bold & The Beautiful, Actress):  dairy, gluten, corn yeast

Gina Rodriguez (actress):  blueberries

Jessica Vosk (Broadway actress): peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, shellfish

Henri Laaksonen (tennis player):  salmon and possibly other fin fish

Daniel Robertson (baseball player, Tampa Bay Rays): pecans

Jameela Jamil (actress): gluten (celiac disease)

Justin Bieber (singer):  celery, gluten

Nina Dobrev (actress):  undisclosed food allergy

Heidi Collins (journalist):  gluten (celiac disease)

Britney Spears (singer and food allergy parent): son allergic to an ingredient in fried chicken.

Kylie Jenner (beauty mogul and food allergy parent): daughter allergic to peanuts, tree nuts

Holly Robinson Peete (actress and food allergy parent): four children allergic to multiple allergens

Jenna Fischer (actress):  sweet potatoes/yams

Mark Cuban (Maverick’s owner and Shark Tank investor): parent to a child with food allergies (tree nuts)

Lauren Conrad (reality TV star and designer): parent to a child with food allergies (dairy)

Blake Martinez (NFL player: NY Giants, former Green Bay Packer): dairy and egg allergy.

(All photos files are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

 

What Does Food Mean to You? September 23, 2020

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Although I’m not a teacher, I often find myself in the classroom with students. I’m called upon to teach a wide variety of subjects to students of all ages. Last year, I was a guest lecturer for a senior writing seminar class titled, “Food, Travel and Adventure.” As a current writer, food enthusiast and former diplomat, this class was right up my alley.


There are many different types of writing: narrative, journalistic, scientific… You could use any of these styles to write about food. However, sometimes when you’re writing about food, you’re not writing about food at all.


For example, in the book Julie & Julia, author Julie Powell dedicates page after page to descriptions of ingredients, recipes and preparations. But what she’s really writing about in this autobiography is self-discovery:

“Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world. It’s not what I thought it was. I thought it was all about-I don’t know, confidence or will or luck. Those are all some good things to have, no question. But there’s something else, somethng that these things grow out of. It’s joy.” 


In his book, Yes, Chef, Chef Marcus Samuelsson verbally fans the aroma of each ingredient from his kitchen through the pages to the reader to vividly envision and inhale. But Samuelsson isn’t writing about food either, he’s writing about culture and communication.

“Food and flavors have become my first language. Not English, not Swedish, not Amharic…”


Food critics, who write exhaustively about taste, texture and flavors are not ONLY writing about food. They are also writing about creativity, artistry and talent.

Magical dishes, magical words: a great cook is, when all is said and done, a great poet. . . . For was it not a visit from the Muses that inspired the person who first had the idea of marrying rice and chicken… Parmesan and pasta, aubergine (eggplant) and tomato…?”
‘Cinquante Ans a Table’ (1953) 
Marcel Étiennegrancher (1897-1976)


When I write about food, it is born out of my own experience. When you have food allergies, food may mean something different to you. When food can both sustain you and do you harm, your relationship to food may be complicated – or not!


When I write about food and food allergies, I am writing about inclusion, respect, and trust. I am writing to express my appreciation, a pot boiling over with gratitude. I am illuminating my belief that access to safe and healthy food is a right and a necessity – one that creates opportunity for learning, growth and a better future. Finding safe food can be a creative challenge that offers hope, pleasure and a platform for fun times spent with friends and family.


Most of all, as a person who adores someone with food allergies: food – and its sometimes endless hours of preparation and worry – represent love. Pure (and hopefully delicious) love.

 

Be a Food Allergy Friend – Kid Edition March 3, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:30 am

You’ve probably heard of food allergies.  Someone in your class might have one.  Maybe your friend has one.  But what are they?

Top 8 Food Allergens - white background

What is a food allergy?
Food is safe for most people, but a person with a food allergy cannot eat the foods they are allergic to or they will get sick and may need to go to the hospital.  The most common food people are allergic to are peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans), milk, eggs, fish, shellfish (like shrimp and lobster), soy and wheat (bread, pasta, cake, and cookies for example) – but you can be allergic to almost any food!  Food allergies are a medical condition – that means they are not a choice.  They can be serious, so it’s important to know how to be a Food Allergy Friend.

HOW TO BE A FOOD ALLERGY FRIEND

Don’t Share Food 

People with food allergies have to be very careful about what they eat.  Even though it’s nice to share and be generous with your friends in general, it’s best not to share food with someone who has a food allergy.  They know how to read ingredients to find food that is safe for them.

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Wash Your Hands!

Washing your hands before and after eating is a great habit!  It cleans your hands of dirt and germs before you eat so you don’t get sick.  After you eat, washing your hands wipes away food that your friends might be allergic to and keeps them safe and healthy, too!

Know What to Do

If your friend begins to feel sick or has trouble breathing after they eat, get an adult right away.  If no adult is around, call 9-1-1 and tell them about your friend’s food allergy and how they are feeling.

Speak Up!

Sometimes other people – even adults! – don’t understand what a food allergy is. YOU can help others understand how serious food allergies are.  And, if you see something that might not be safe for your friend with a food allergy, speak up and let someone know.

Have FUN Without Food

Food isn’t the special ingredient in having fun – your friends are!  So plan activities with your friends without the food.  There’s LOTS to do!  Build a fort, climb a tree, play ball, paint, jump rope…  you name it! What do you like to do with YOUR friends?

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Join the Food Allergy Fighters – Race for Every Child June 3, 2019

 

**Registration is FREE until Wednesday, June 5th!**

 

Come join us!  All are welcome to join the team, The Food Allergy Fighters, for this year’s Race for Every Child.  The Race for Every Child 5K will be held on October 19, 2019 beginning at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.  You can participate in person or virtually, as a walker or a runner, individually or with the whole family.  Children ages 3 to 10 can also participate in the 100 yard Kids’ Dash.

 

When you support the Food Allergy Fighters, you are making a difference for all food allergy patients – here and around the world. Our team will specifically raise funds to advance food allergy research.

 

Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is on the forefront of both clinical medical as well as psychological research as it pertains to food allergies.  They run an exemplary program that is always evolving for the better.

 

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Every dollar raised through the Race for Every Child enables Children’s National to advance pediatric health and provide world-class care to every child, regardless of illness, injury or ability to pay.

 

Please join us – register here!

 

Once you register, please create a profile and share with friends and family – all are welcome!

 

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at this meaningful, family-friendly event this fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Allergy Advocacy – A Day on Capitol Hill May 16, 2019

When you live with a chronic disease like food allergies and asthma, you need support – the support of family and friends, but also support from the outside world.  Fifty-eight million people suffer from either asthma or food allergies.  Every year, 3,600 people die from asthma.  And, every 3 minutes someone is rushed to the hospital suffering from a severe food allergy reaction.  They are both serious and life-threatening conditions.

 

There are so many issues that need our collective attention – including legislative ones that support and protect patients with food allergies, asthma and other atopic diseases. We expect and are entitled to equal access to healthcare, research funding and education among other things.

When given the opportunity to join the Allergy & Asthma Network and contribute to the effort to better the lives of all food allergy and asthma patients, I jumped.  Over the course of one day, we visited fifty percent of all Senators and nearly 100 member of the House of Representatives.  We heard from doctors and nurses, families who have struggled within the existing healthcare system and those who have lost loved ones prematurely, and we were inspired by others striving to make lasting change.

Among the issues that need our attention are:

  • Access to quality, affordable healthcare
  • Access to affordable prescription medication and treatment
  • Continued and increased funding for federal health and research funding
  • Accurate and up-to-date food labeling

These issues translated into support for the following pending legislation that pertain to food allergy:

H.R. 1243/S. 523: Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act of 2019

Directs HHS to develop a national strategic action plan to help health professionals prepare for and respond to the public health effects of climate change.

My take:  Researchers are considering whether the way in which we produce and process our food has contributed to the rise in food allergies.  The nutrients that nourish our good bacteria in our microbiome has changed over the last 100 years.  Climate change has and will undoubtedly change the way we grow our food and the way in which our bodies respond to these changes.  

 

H.R. 2117:  Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act

Requires that sesame be added to the current list of allergens that manufacturers are required to label for.  The bill would also provide the CDC funding to conduct data on allergy prevalence.

My take:  Sesame is the 9th most common allergen (and one of the fastest growing allergies in terms of prevalence) and it’s a particularly difficult one to avoid.  Ground into flour and paste, used as oil in beauty products, in addition to whole seeds, current labeling guidelines allow for sesame to be hidden in ingredient lists under general terminology like “spices,” “natural flavors,” and “seasoning.”  Customers want transparency in their food and beauty products.  And, labeling for sesame would bring the US closer to the [more thorough and higher] standards set in the UK, EU, Canada and Australia.

For more information on sesame seed allergies, please see Sesame: The 9th Food Allergen?

 

H.R. 2468  School-Based Allergies and Asthma Management Program Act

Increases grant preference to states that implement school-based asthma and allergy management programs (including student action plans and emergency medication administration education/training for staff).

My take:  Schools are concerned with how to handle the increasing number of students with food allergies.  And they should be.  Studies show that 30 percent of stock epinephrine use was for students and staff with no known history of allergies.  But schools lack the funds to improve and increase training on the emergency medication [epinephrine] that will ensure administration when it’s so critically needed.  Immediate administration of epinephrine is associated with more favorable outcomes during anaphylaxis.  Familiarity with the signs and symptoms of a severe reaction leads to accurate, faster treatment, better protection for students and reduces school liability.

 

Not in D.C.?  How you can advocate from where you are:

  1. Call your state’s representatives and encourage them to support these and other legislation that protects patients.
  2. Start local!  There are towns, cities and counties across the country that are doing things right.  For example, there are a few places where police and bus drivers are trained to carry and administer epinephrine.  Is your town one of them?
  3. Work with your state senators and local representatives to allow stock epinephrine to be placed in public venues.
    • In Connecticut, Representative Robin Comey is trying to pass legislation that does just that through Senate Bill 706. If you live in CT, contact your legislators and ask them to support 706 to give entities access to stock epinephrine and the ability to protect those experience life-threatening reactions.
    • In New York City, Elijah’s law (NY S218A) proposes to mandate training  and establish emergency procedures for early child care centers and preschools in New York City.

 

It is an honor and a privilege to help improve rights for patient and families like ours and to play a part in our government at work.  By representing all our voices, it was clear we illustrated what is important to constituents and elevated these important issues for our representatives.

 

Find your own way to keep the momentum going!

 

 

The Impact of Adult On-Set Food Allergies March 25, 2019

People often think of food allergies as a childhood disease, where 1 in every 13 kids have a food allergy.  And, much attention DOES need to be paid to the developmental years to keep young food allergies patients safe.

 

But recently, Dr. Ruchi Gupta and her research team reported that 1 in 10 adults have a food allergy in the United States – that’s 26 million adults.  This more than doubles previous estimates putting the total number of patients with food allergies over 32 million people in the US.

 

Beyond the fascinating information presented in her study.  This has tremendous implications outside of the medical field.  This number changes the discussion in a variety of industries who should now be taking food allergies into account in a way they may not have before.

 

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To put it in all in context, food allergies affect:

  • 1,500 passengers that fly Delta daily
  • 260,000 passengers that the FAA serves daily in and out of U.S. airports
  • 520,000 visitors to Disney World annually
  • 15,000,000 guests at Hilton Hotels annually
  • 10,000,000 diners at fast food establishments annually
  • Almost 2,900 ticket holders at each and every Major League Baseball game
  • 72,000 fans annually at AT&T Stadium watching the Dallas Cowboys play
  • 400,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools
  • Nearly 95,000 people working as chefs, cooks and other food preparation employees

 

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But, these numbers aren’t exactly representative of all those who are affected by food allergies.  Parents, siblings, co-workers and friends all make decisions based on their companion with food allergies.  And, when handled well, those experiences flying, visiting amusement parks, staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, attending events, etc, leave a lasting impression that breeds customer loyalty.  Companies need to carefully consider food allergies and implement best practices to gain and retain this kind of loyalty.  If 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies directly, it may be safe to assume that as many as 120 million Americans are affected by them indirectly by enjoying time with allergic friends, family and co-workers.

 

Mistakes with food allergy do not only lead to uncomfortableness (such as hives), as many who do not have food allergies sometimes believe.  They can lead to serious emergencies as reactions vary from simple hives to fainting, throat closing, respiratory distress and cardiac issues and need to be taken very seriously in order to be managed properly.  This requires education across the board and thoughtful policies that offer patients a safe experience.

 

What can companies do to offer safe options to those with food allergies?  Where can they be more transparent?  What can they do educate their employees?  How will they prepare for a food allergic emergency?

 

It will be interesting to see which companies embrace these statistics and what they do to do be sensitive to this epidemic.

 

 

 

 

 
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