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I was born with food allergies. I developed asthma, environmental allergies and eczema in childhood. Currently, I successfully manage all in my everyday life, which includes dating, dining out, traveling, working and most importantly living. In addition, I’m a licensed social worker and food allergy counselor. I work with families, children and adults to help them learn how to be better advocates for themselves and their health through food allergy counseling. I consult with the healthcare, foodservice and hospitality industries, government and not-for-profit advocacy organizations about food allergies. In 2011, my book Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Wiley, 2011) was published. It’s the first lifestyle guide written by an adult with food allergies. My motto is: Just because you have a restricted diet, does not mean you have a restricted life.
The latest numbers from Pediatrics journal are that nearly 6 million or 8% of children in the United States have at least one food allergy. That is 1 in every 13 American children. According to the Food Allergy Research & Education, an estimated 9 million, or 4%, of adults in the United States have food allergies.
As of right now, there is no cure for food allergies. The only treatment is avoidance of the known allergen. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the top 8 foods that cause 90% of food allergic reactions are: dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. However, anyone can be allergic to anything at any time. According to the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the US:
“If exposed to a known allergen symptoms may include itchy mouth, tongue and lips; hives; respiratory distress or gastro-intestinal distress. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis – a rapid and potentially fatal onset of symptoms involving multiple bodily systems such as the skin, GI tract, cardiovascular, respiratory systems.” The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommendation is an epinephrine auto-injector as the first line of defense. So that’s the landscape of food allergies: they are real, serious and the numbers are climbing.
If this is you, my best piece of advice is to take your food allergy diagnosis seriously. What does this mean? See a board-certified allergist, fill your prescriptions and always carry them with you, ask a lot of questions of your board certified allergist, get an anaphylaxis action plan filled out by your allergist before your leave their office, read as much material as you can from reputable sources and most of all, be patient with yourself. There will be mistakes. Start where you are right now and do your best.
Want more information? Here are some reliable resources:
Allergic Girl – Allergicgirl.com
Allergy Home – AllergyHome.org
EpiPen – EpiPen.com
Sloane Miller, food allergy counselor and author, is founder and President of Allergic Girl Resources, Inc., a consultancy devoted to food allergy awareness. She consults with private clients, the healthcare, food and hospitality industries, government and not-for-profit advocacy organizations. Ms. Miller earned her Master of Social Work at the New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and her Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Literature at Bennington College. In 2006 she started Please Don’t Pass the Nuts, an award-winning blog for and about people affected by food allergies. In 2011, John Wiley & Sons published Ms. Miller’s first book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well With Food Allergies, the definitive how-to guide. Ms. Miller combines a lifetime of personal experience and passion with professional expertise to connect with people about how to live safely, effectively, and joyously with food allergies. For more information, please visit Allergic Girl Resources, Inc. on the Internet at www.allergicgirl.com.
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