The number of children with food allergies has spiked over the last few years and no one knows why. Seeing your child suddenly go into life-threatening anaphylactic shock after eating eggs with cheese is a terrifying experience.
This is what happened to Kim Hall whose daughter was only 11 months old. Five years later, another daughter was diagnosed with an allergy to fruits and vegetables which is exacerbated by a severe and debilitating allergy to pollen. Elise Bates’ daughter was diagnosed at a young age with food allergies and went into anaphylactic shock after inadvertently consuming a trace amount of nuts in supposedly safe green beans.
It’s not clear what causes food allergies. Because allergic disease is a complex set of conditions, most likely caused through multiple players in the body, getting at the root cause is expensive and time-consuming. Tired of living just one bite away from potential disaster and keeping a constant food vigil, the Bates and Hall families joined together to help find a cure for food allergies. In 2014, they founded End Allergies Together (EAT) with the focus of bringing communities together and raising money to directly fund the researchers who strive to find solutions for this growing epidemic.
Allergic reactions can present differently in each person and on any given day. For example, in some cases hives may present and in others stomach aches or vomiting may present. The Mayo Clinic offers a lengthy list of symptoms such as tingling, itching, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting, rapid pulse, and shock with severe drop in blood pressure.
With 1 in 12 children diagnosed with food allergies, parents need to know what to do if their child suddenly reacts to a food. When asked this question, Kim and Elise responded, “If it’s a child’s ﬁrst reaction, parents should call their pediatrician or allergist immediately and describe the situation and symptoms. Parents should be as speciﬁc as possible. Only a medical professional can safely counsel the parent on whether to give an anti-histamine (Benadryl, Zyrtec) and monitor the child or call 911 and go to the emergency room.”
When asked how they keep their children safe on a daily basis, these two mothers supplied the following list.
- Always carry 2 epinephrine auto-injectors
- Avoid all outside food unless it has a trusted ingredient label
- Read labels every time as they can change
- Keep up with SnackSafely.com for cross contamination information on most major processed food items
- Pack and bring child’s own food
- Always have a stash of safe food on me, my child or in the car
- At younger ages, teach child to never share food
- At older ages teach children to 1) read all labels and avoid when there’s any question 2) always inquire with adults when there is any doubt
- Communicate with all teachers, coaches, instructors, friends parents, etc. about my child’s allergies
- Ensure that any adult responsible for my child knows how, and is comfortable using, an epinephrine auto-injector
Having a family with food allergies can be overwhelming and frightening but, for 17 million people in the US, food allergies are a way of life. Houstonians may find practical and emotional support on Houston Food Allergy Support Facebook.
With very little government funding available for research, End Allergies Together (EAT) is committed to helping close the funding gap so that solutions can be found at a faster rate. Donations to EAT may be made by visiting the EAT website and clicking the green Donate Now button.