Just about anyone who has children in school can tell you that lunchrooms and cafeterias look a lot different today than they did even 15 years ago. But why? The short answer is food allergies. Your Denver personal injury attorney has learned that according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of children with food allergies increased 18 percent between 1997-2007.
As of 2007, 3 million children 18 years of age and younger had food or digestive allergies. One of the most common food allergies among children is a peanut allergy, which has risen from .4 percent of children in 1997 to 1.4 percent of children in 2010. Many children allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or almonds. Because all of these nuts are so ubiquitous in our foods, the prevalence of allergies creates a huge risk to children. In fact, current estimates are that one in five Americans have an allergic condition, making the risk one shared by the entire population.
Why are Food Allergies So Common?
While no one cause has been definitively identified, many personal injury lawyers throughout Denver note that some theories have emerged as to why food allergies have increased so dramatically over the last fifteen years. One theory, the “hygiene hypothesis,” links our excessive cleanliness to the emergence of allergies. In our Western vaccinated, anti-bacterial, pasteurized and antibiotic-filled societies, our immune systems no longer fight infectious diseases as much, so they fight things they should not, such as the environment and foods, and produce allergies.
Another theory for why food allergies have increased is the delayed introduction of foods with high allergy potential. For a while, the sharp increase in peanut allergies led to parents delaying or eliminating peanuts from their children’s diet. However, waiting to introduce potential allergens such as peanuts and cow’s milk did not stop the increase in allergies to these foods.
A third explanation for the rise in food allergies is that increased awareness has led to increased reporting. Therefore, the public now receives a more accurate picture of people’s sensitivities to food.
Staying Safe When You Have Food Allergies
There is no cure for food allergies, and some reactions can be life-threatening. The best plan is to identify and avoid trigger foods, but that is not so easy when allergens can be hidden ingredients in many foods. That is why carrying an EpiPen, which is an auto-injector of epinephrine used to treat anaphylaxis, is so essential for many individuals suffering from allergies. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, and using an EpiPen can reverse the reaction. Wearing a medic alert bracelet or necklace is also a great idea if you have a food allergy since it notifies those around you and medical professionals of your condition.
With the holidays approaching, we all tend to enjoy our favorite treats at our favorite places. Those with food allergies need to remember that restaurants and cafés do not always adequately warn customers with respect to potential allergens. Additionally, cross-contamination between ingredients while baking can occur. Be careful. Be prepared.
Contact Jordan Levine at the Levine Law Firm if you want more information on food allergies, or if you have suffered a recent reaction and want to know your legal rights.