Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Allergy Partners of Louisville have proclaimed May 11-17 as Food Allergy Awareness Week to highlight a disease that’s rising in America, including a dramatic increase among children.
The condition can be life-threatening and has no cure. Based on findings released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates for children below age 18 increased by about 50 percent from 1997 to 2011. Food allergy affects one in 13 children or two students per classroom.
In the Louisville Metro area, rates are tracking national trends as more than 100,000 people are estimated to have food allergies, said Dr. Derek Damin, of Allergy Partners of Louisville, a board-certified practice.
“Allergy Partners of Louisville worked with the mayor’s office to take a stand against a condition that, as new data clearly shows, requires continued education and advocacy to reduce incidents and save lives,” Damin said.
Food allergy causes more than 200,000 visits to the emergency room each year and has an economic cost of about $25 billion annually, according to information available from Food Allergy Research & Education. FARE is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to cure food allergies and protect individuals with the disease. Of these emergency room visits, about 90,000 carry a probability of being highly severe with the potential for being life-threatening.
Despite the statistics, being informed is the best defense against food allergies, Damin said. And with summer around the corner, Food Allergy Awareness Week is an appropriate time to step up education efforts.
Camping, picnics, fairs and vacation travel all mix food with fun. But they present opportunities for snack sharing among kids, exposure to foods prepared outside home supervision or being farther from one’s regular allergy-care provider or a hospital.
FARE’s website, www.foodallergy.org, offers potentially life-saving information to address just about any situation. The Tools and Resource section has a field guide for newly diagnosed patients; a personal emergency plan to address symptoms of an allergic reaction; and much more. It’s not just for patients and family members, but restaurants, schools, camps and other organizations, making it a community resource.
For example, there’s a template for creating a Chef Card, a wallet-sized card that lists your food allergies and states your food must be cooked in a clean and safe area. It can be presented to restaurant managers or servers to ensure a safe dining experience. Another section is devoted to summer camps, with guidelines for all parties involved ─ parents, children and camp administrators.
Suspected food allergies should always be evaluated, diagnosed and treated by a qualified medical professional, such as a board-certified allergist. Your primary care provider may refer you to an allergist. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of reactions are important in preventing serious health consequences.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to create a doctor-patient relationship with any reader. If you need personalized medical advice, contact your primary care physician or other physician in your community. If you need to establish care with an allergist, Allergy Partners of Louisville would love to help you find relief. Call 502-882-2063 for an appointment.