Food allergies pose a growing danger to students

Food allergies pose a growing danger to students

Julia Eisenshtadt, Managing Editor

She felt her throat begin to close.

“I couldn’t breathe. I was wheezing,” said senior Rachel Hirsch, who discovered her peanut allergy during a reaction that came out of the blue just last year.

Allergic reactions, like the one experienced by Hirsch, are becoming more and more common, according to allergist Dr. Devang Doshi.

“Right now statistically, under the age of 18, there are approximately two to three kids that have a food allergy in every class across the U.S,” he said.

Although according to Doshi, most people with allergies are diagnosed when they are little kids, Hirsch’s peanut allergy just last year and her doctors don’t know why.

“They think that I was allergic my whole life and it just severely got worse. That one day when I had the reaction, it was just put over the edge.

Doctors and researchers still don’t have answers to what causes allergies and why the number of kids with allergies keeps growing, according to Doshi.

“No one actually knows why people develop food allergies. There are definitely risk factors such as family history and environmental allergies. People who have had skin issues or asthma could be at high risk for it,” he said. “The scary thing is over the last 15 years or so, the numbers have been skyrocketing. The incidents of food allergies continue to rise and nobody really knows why.”

Severe allergies can be to many foods besides peanuts. According to Doshi, the top eight food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.

 Senior Haley Wise, who is allergic to many of these foods, says the allergies make it challenging to find food she can eat.

“I have a lot of allergies that can make if difficult to find food I can safely eat. My most severe allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, eggs, dairy, and garbanzo beans,” she said.

According to Doshi, severe allergic reactions can be fatal and include a wide range of symptoms.

“Reactions can happen very quickly. The symptoms can range from hives, swelling of the lips and tongue, problems speaking, swallowing, and breathing, vomiting. Severe allergic reactions usually involve a multiple array of symptoms and unfortunately a lot of those can be so severe that they are life threatening.”

Doshi adds that if not handled properly and quickly, reactions can have detrimental consequences.

“When someone is beginning to experience a severe allergic reaction, we suggest immediately injecting them with epinephrine without wasting any time. Then call 911 or go straight to the emergency room.”

In order to prevent allergies, both Hirsch and Wise agree that they have to be extremely careful when eating, especially at restaurants.

“I have to be more careful now. When I go to a restaurant I always tell the waiter about my nut allergy,” said Hirsch.

Wise adds that cross contamination is something she is especially careful about when ordering food.

“When I go out to eat at a restaurant I always tell the waiter about all of my allergies. I need to make sure that there is no cross contamination on any of the utensils the chefs use to make my food,” she said. “That basically means that nothing I am allergic too was touching anything that will be touching the food I ordered. So if there was butter on a pan, the chefs can’t use that pan for my meal since I’m allergic”

According to Doshi, it’s incredibly important to be aware of other’s allergies in order to keep friends and classmates safe, as well as for those with allergies to always carry their Epi-Pen.

“It’s really important that if friends are coming over for dinner or to study to make sure that we understand their food allergies and make it very certain that we are not exposing them to those foods,” he said. “We never know when someone will accidentally get exposed to something, so we always have to be prepared.”