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Percentage of food allergies rise in adults

This Oct. 10, 2013 photo shows an epinephrine auto-injector that Tyler Edwards, 12, of Hendersonville, Tenn., carries with him because of his allergies. On Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, the federal government is issuing its first guidelines to schools on how to protect children with food allergies. The voluntary guidelines call on schools to take such steps as restricting nuts, shellfish or other foods that can cause allergic reactions, and make sure emergency allergy medicine _ like EpiPens _ are available.

AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

This Oct. 10, 2013 photo shows an epinephrine auto-injector that Tyler Edwards, 12, of Hendersonville, Tenn., carries with him because of his allergies. On Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, the federal government is issuing its first guidelines to schools on how to protect children with food allergies. The voluntary guidelines call on schools to take such steps as restricting nuts, shellfish or other foods that can cause allergic reactions, and make sure emergency allergy medicine _ like EpiPens _ are available.

Patrick Stein, Staff writer

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Experiencing a food allergy for the first time is a daunting event. The anticipation of incoming side effects, some potentially life threatening, can cause an exceedingly stressful ordeal.
According to foodallergy.org,  “A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response. The immune response, called an allergic reaction, occurs because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are normally harmless. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens.”
I have eaten almonds for over 15 years in small amounts, like in a bag of mixed nuts,  without experiencing any notable side effects. However, one evening within the past year, I ate about 30 almonds for dinner and experienced symptoms of a food allergy. These symptoms included dry, swollen eyes, swollen nostrils, drastically increased saliva generation and heartburn.  I found it strange that I had eaten almonds for the majority of my life without any problems, but eating many of them in one sitting caused complications.
Was I always mildly allergic, or did my body develop an allergy in recent years? While it’s difficult to say, research shows that it’s likely the latter of the two.
“We have noticed that the prevalence of food allergy has tripled in the last 20 to 30 years,” said Dr. Jonathan Hemler, pediatric allergy and immunology specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in an article titled “Adult Food Allergies on the Rise, Report Finds, but Cause Still Unclear” on nbcnews.com.
Hemler went on to say, “It’s very concerning because we don’t really have a good explanation as to why this is happening. Along with the increase in food allergy, we’re also seeing more severe anaphylaxis events happening where adults have to go to the
emergency room to get treatment.”
According to the same article on nbcnews.com, FAIR Health, an independent, nonprofit organization with a focus on health insurance information, shared data that private insurance claims with diagnoses an aphylactic reactions to food rose 377 percent from 2007 to 2016. Their data also showed that approximately half of adults with food allergies developed their allergy after the age of 18.
Hemler said, “We are seeing more adults that have food allergy come into our practice and we’re often seeing more severe reactions occurring, adults that needed to go to the emergency room for their reaction, a true anaphylaxis. It can be very scary because there’s nothing you can do to predict whether you’re going to have a food allergic reaction.”
According to peanut-institute.org, “About 90 percent of food allergies are caused by: tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.), peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.” This information may help narrow the search down if you’re unfamiliar with what foods cause allergic reactions in your body.
In an interview on “Here and Now,” Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a food allergy researcher, stated, “What we found is that adult-onset food allergy is getting more common, and the two top ones are shellfish and peanuts — or tree nuts, you know, all the nuts. And what’s really interesting is adults may have it, and they will have a reaction, and then they’ll avoid the food.”
Dr. Gupta continued, “I think it’s so critical to encourage adults to make sure that they go and see an allergist and get tested and really understand what their food allergy is, and how to be prepared for an allergic reaction.”

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Percentage of food allergies rise in adults