Food-related allergies serious

Before anyone dives into their holiday dinner this break, they should check the recipes of their favorite dishes because it just may prevent an anaphylaxis reaction.

According to Donna Johnson-Curtis, a registered nurse at the Highsmith-Rainey Hospital in Fayetteville, N.C., anaphylaxis occurs when individuals with allergies come in contact with their allergen. It can be fatal within minutes due to swelling that shuts off airways or a dramatic drop in blood pressure.  The immune system interprets the allergen as a foreign substance, which sets off a chain reaction in the immune system.

Each year at least 100 people die from food-related anaphylaxis, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s Web site. The top eight food allergies in both children and adults are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

The most common warning of anaphylaxis reactions include, but are not limited to chest and throat tightening, wheezing, hives, inability to swallow, swelling of the body,
discoloring to the face and body, stomach cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and fainting.

Whitney Moore, 21, a pharmacy student from Tallahassee, is allergic to hot dogs unless they are beef. The last time she had a reaction was in the eighth grade. She said the reaction wasn’t that bad but she had to immediately visit her doctor for medication and treatment.

“My lips swell when I eat hotdogs,” Moore said. “I’m not sure if it’s a chemical or a certain type of meat that does it, so I tend to just not eat them just to be on the safe side.”

Some people, depending on their respective allergies, experience more severe reactions however.

“Once anaphylaxis has begun, it progresses rapidly, so emergency treatment is critical and there is no time to wait for EMS or paramedics,” Johnson-Curtis said. “Emergency treatment is the immediate administration of epinephrine when necessary. It is essential that anyone with a history of anaphylaxis keep epinephrine auto injectors known as Epi-Pens on hand at all times. Medical assistance should follow.”

Aaron Holman, 19, a sophomore psychology student from Charlotte, N.C., is allergic to milk and now takes precautions to prevent an allergic reaction.

Holman tries not to eat ice cream with a lot of milk. She also drinks soymilk and purchases butter substitutes.

“Avoiding identified allergens is critical,” Johnson-Curtis said. “People who have known allergens should educate themselves about their allergens.”