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Anaphylaxis and Food Allergies

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Food Allergy Facts

Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 4%–6% of children in the United States. Allergic reactions can be life threatening and have far-reaching effects on children and their families, as well as on the schools or early care and education (ECE) programs they attend. Staff who work in schools and ECE programs should develop plans for preventing an allergic reaction and responding to a food allergy emergency.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods. 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.

Eight foods or food groups account for 90% of serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. Symptoms of Food Allergy in Children

 
  • It feels like something is poking my tongue.

  • My tongue (or mouth) is tingling (or burning).

  • My tongue (or mouth) itches.

  • My tongue feels like there is hair on it.

  • My mouth feels funny.

  • There’s a frog in my throat; there’s something stuck in my throat.

  • My tongue feels full (or heavy).

  • My lips feel tight.

  • It feels like there are bugs in there (to describe itchy ears).

  • It (my throat) feels thick.

  • It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue (throat).

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.5 Not all allergic reactions will develop into anaphylaxis.