New Haven Public Schools takes Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis in School-Aged Children VERY SERIOUSLY
Overview of Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis in School-Aged Children
Food allergy is an exaggerated response by the immune system to a food that the body mistakenly identifies as being harmful. Once the immune system decides that a particular food is harmful, it produces specific antibodies to that particular food.
The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases moderate to massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine, to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and cardiovascular system.
In some people symptoms appear in only one body system, while in others symptoms appear in several systems. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may be life-threatening depending on the individual and type of exposure.
Scientists estimate that approximately 11 million Americans suffer from potentially life-threatening food allergies. Of these 11 million, 2 million are school-aged children. At the present time, there is no cure for food allergy and avoidance is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.
Although an individual can have a life-threatening allergic reaction to any food, including fruits, vegetables, and meats, over 90 percent of allergic reactions are caused by the following eight foods:
Tree nut (walnut, cashew, pecan, hazelnut, almond, etc.)
Although eight foods are responsible for the most reactions, it is important to remember that ANY food can cause a serious allergic reaction.
Most, but not all, childhood allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, are outgrown by age 5. Peanut and tree nuts typically cause the most severe allergic reactions, and approximately 90 percent of fatal and near-fatal reactions are due to these foods. Allergies to peanut, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are often considered to be lifelong.
Ingestion of the food allergen is the principal route of exposure that leads to allergic reactions. For sensitized individuals, ingestion of even very minute amounts of foods can, in certain instances, result in fatal reactions without rapid intervention. While, it is also possible for a child to have an allergic reaction to tactile (touch) exposure or inhalation exposure, research has shown that they are extremely unlikely to result in severe or life-threatening reactions. Nevertheless, if children with life-threatening food allergies touch the allergens and then put their fingers to their eyes, nose or mouth, the exposure becomes an ingestion, and may cause anaphylaxis. The quantity of food necessary to trigger an allergic reaction may depend upon multiple variables. Each individual’s level of sensitivity may fluctuate over time. The type and severity of symptoms can vary for a specific food in an individual and for different foods in someone with multiple food allergies.
The complete guide can be found here: Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies
Please contact Sarah Maver RD with food allergy related questions; Sarah.Maver@new-haven.k12.ct.us