My Turn

Story published: 02-13-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Careful sensitivity is needed for people with allergies

By Paula Walter

It has been estimated that in the United States alone, there are approximately 15 million people who suffer from food allergies. Given those statistics, it seems that those who are fortunate not to have to worry about life-threatening reactions to many foods would be considerate of those who deal with this problem on a daily basis.

People can be allergic to any food, be it nuts, bananas, shellfish, tomatoes or even strawberries. For those that react to foods, their immune system treats a protein in the food as harmful. Their body gets the message from the brain to fight back and they release histamines that cause symptoms of an allergic reaction. People may find they eat a particular item and they begin to feel a tingling or burning sensation in their mouth. They may notice their lips and even their face may swell. They could develop a skin rash, begin to wheeze, experience nausea, stomach upsets, as well as runny nose and watery eyes. These symptoms are a red flag as it indicates a food allergy to something they just consumed.

However, there are others who have very severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis shock. They can experience a very rapid drop in their blood pressure, an itchy throat, swelling of their tongue, breathing problems and a fast heart rate. They can also lose consciousness. It is imperative that those suffering from anaphylaxis get medical attention. For some, they may be able to take antihistamines such as Benadryl, but others require a trip to the emergency room. People die from food allergies.

My oldest son suffers from reactions to many foods. Food allergies can develop at any age, and his did not begin until he was approximately 13 years old. He now reacts to bananas, avocados and all nuts with the exception of peanuts. A recent trip to the salad bar at a well-known food chain outside of our county caused a severe reaction after he ate some curry. David enjoys Indian food, and he had eaten it many times before. Within minutes, his tongue began to swell. He quickly took two Benadryl and paid a trip to the grocery store that will remain unnamed. After approaching the store manager, he was informed that indeed there were cashews in the curry. There were no signs posted listing the ingredients in any of the dishes.

People with known food allergies take a risk each time they eat food prepared by others. You may notice them at restaurants or gatherings. They are the ones removing strawberries from their bowl of fruit and carefully going through their casserole extracting the onions. If you had a dinner party and cooked a scrumptious meal that contained mushrooms, your guest that suffers from extreme food allergies may not even be able to pick out the offending item because it has touched other ingredients in the meal.

Think of the number of times we go to buffets, parties or other gatherings with friends, at church and with those we work. For someone with food allergies, this can be a nightmare. Perhaps you could consider placing a small index card next to your dish that lists the ingredients, especially if it is a large crowd. Maybe you could be the one that stands up and states I just want everyone to know there is shrimp in this casserole, just in case you cant eat shellfish.

Please be considerate of others. You just may save a life.