FAIRFAX, Va., Aug. 20 The incidence of food allergy hasskyrocketed, doubling in the last 10 years, and scientists aren't sure why.More than 12 million Americans -- one in 25 -- are caught up in thislife-altering epidemic.
Among them are 2.2 million school-age children. For them, as well as fortheir parents, back-to-school is an especially anxious time.
That's because food allergy is not the harmless, whimsical condition somepeople still seem to think it is.
"Food allergy is serious, and it's life-threatening," says Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)."Just one bite of the wrong food can bring on anaphylaxis -- a severe allergicreaction that can cause death. Even trace amounts can be enough to causeproblems -- sometimes just through skin contact, or from inhalation when foodis being cooked."
Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospitalsetting in the U.S. and results in 150-200 deaths and more than 30,000emergency room visits each year. There is no known cure; strict avoidance isthe only way to prevent a reaction.
But avoidance can be hard in schools, where food allergens are everywhere:in the cafeteria, on the playground, in the classroom. Not just in meals andsnacks, but in art projects, craft activities, even math lessons.
Yet there is no uniform food-allergy policy to guide our nation's schools-- some of which are well-prepared to deal with food allergy, while othersaren't. "The bottom line is that parents can't be sure that a school isequipped to protect their child," says Munoz-Furlong.
That may change as a result of legislation recently introduced inCongress. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (HR.2063/S.1232)would, if passed, call on the federal government to establish voluntarynational guidelines for managing students with food allergies.
"What's needed is a food-allergy blueprint for schools to follow, and thiswould provide it," said Munoz-Furlong.
"Children with food allergy, and their parents, have to always be onguard, to prevent a reaction. It's not easy, but they can do it with thecooperation, and the understanding, of everyone around them."To view the Multimedia News Release, go to:http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/faan/28813/