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By Missie (a mother whose daughter is allergic to peanuts)
People are very emotional about food allergies, especially in regards to children with food allergies. We, the parents of kids with food allergies, want to feel that our kids are safe when we send them off to school. On the other side, parents whose children do not have food allergies often feel that accommodations for our children will somehow compromise their child’s education. This is because there is an overwhelming amount of myths surrounding food allergies.
The truth is that so many kids have food allergies now, that almost every school is bound to have this issue come up. Children with food allergies already have so many limitations on their lives, it would be so great if we could increase awareness and perhaps some schools, restaurants, airlines, hotels, etc… would start putting in policies that would help include us. Most of all, I would really like to tell the word about the below, which I believe to be the top 10 myths about food allergies.
Myth: The allergic food needs to be eaten to have a reaction.
Truth: Children (and adults) have had reactions just from touching the allergen (and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth, just as we all get sick from germs) or from breathing in particles in the air (for example, chopping and roasting nuts puts particles in the air).
Myth: Food is safe if it doesn’t contain peanuts as an ingredient.
Truth: Cross-contamination is one of the main cause of reactions. For example, if a line in a factory makes a peanut-containing food on it and then produces a non-peanut food on the same line, that can cause the non-peanut containing food to have trace particles inside it.
Myth: Visible amounts of peanuts need to be eaten to cause a reaction.
Truth: Tiny protein particles, invisible to the naked eye, can cause life-threatening reactions.
Myth: Food allergies can be mild.
Truth: Yes, reactions can be mild, but even if someone has experienced mild reactions (such as a rash) in the past, they can still have an anaphylactic response to the next exposure. Allergies are unpredictable. Here are some possible reactions to exposure to peanuts: rash, vomiting, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure, swelling, losing the ability to breath (which will cause death if not treated immediately).
Myth: Food allergies and food intolerance are the same.
Truth: Food intolerance is due to a lack of a digestive enzyme. Food allergy is a reaction from the immune system and is much more dangerous. Read more about the difference between Food Allergies vs Food Sensitivities vs Food Intolerance.
Myth: As long as you don’t introduce a food to a child at too young of an age, and no one in your family has food allergies, your child will not develop one.
Truth: Nobody knows what causes food allergies. Also, even if no one in your family has ever had a food allergy, your child could develop one (as in our case). No one is safe from food allergies. They can even develop as an adult to a food you’ve eaten your whole life.
Myth: Food allergies are rare.
Truth: At least 8% of American children have a food allergy (Gupta, 2011). That may seem like a small amount, but it makes it statistically likely that all schools will have at least one allergic child.
Myth: There is a cure for food allergies.
Truth: We are still waiting for that precious day. (Update 2017, there are some promising studies going on like this one)
Myth: Food allergies are outgrown.
Truth: Some are. Some aren’t. Only about 20% of kids with peanut allergy will outgrow it.
Myth: Epinephrine always cures the reaction.
Truth: The purpose of the epinephrine auto injector is to buy time until the ambulance comes. One injection may not be enough to save a person’s life.