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Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States.1, 2 That’s 1 in 13 children, or about 2 students per classroom. A food allergy occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods.3 The body’s immune response can be severe and life threatening, such as anaphylaxis. Although the immune system normally protects people from germs, in people with food allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to food as if it were harmful.
There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction. However, because it is not always easy or possible to avoid certain foods, staff in schools, out-of-school time, and early care and education programs (ECE) should develop plans for preventing an allergic reaction and responding to a food allergy emergency, including anaphylaxis. Early and quick recognition and treatment can prevent serious health problems or death.
Eight foods or food groups account for most serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.3
The symptoms and severity of allergic reactions to food can be different between individuals, and can also be different for one person over time. Anaphylaxis is a sudden and severe allergic reaction that may cause death.4 Not all allergic reactions will develop into anaphylaxis.
Information from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/index.htm
- United States Census Bureau Quick Facts (2015 and 2016 estimates). Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/RHI225218external icon.
- Gupta RS, Warren CM, Smith BM, Blumenstock JA, Jiang J, Davis MM, Nadeau KC. The public health impact of parent-reported childhood food allergies in the united states. Pediatrics. 2018;142(6):e20181235.
- Boyce JA, Assa’ad A, Burks AW, et al; NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126(suppl 6):S1–S58.
- Sampson HA, Munoz-Furlong A, Campbell RL, et al. Second symposium on the definition and management of anaphylaxis: summary report—Second National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease/Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network Symposium. Ann Emerg Med. 2006;47(4):373–380.
- Branum A, Lukacs S. Food allergy among U.S. children: Trends in prevalence and hospitalizations. NCHS data brief, no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db10.pdf pdf icon[PDF – 313 KB].
- Jackson KD, Howie LD, Akinbami LJ. Trends in allergic conditions among children: United States, 1997-2011. NCHS data brief, no 121. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db121.htm.
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