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Food Allergies On A Stick: The Risks Of Summer Eating

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology -- Hot summer days mean more outdoor events and food vendors. People with food allergies must be extra vigilant when eating at fairs, festivals, picnics, and games where ingredients, preparations, and possible cross-contamination may lead to allergic reactions.

Most people would rather not know what goes into the corndog they consume at the summer carnival.

But for the 12 million Americans with food allergies, awareness of ingredients is a must for safely eating their way through summer events, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

"People with food allergies must be extra vigilant when eating at summer fairs and festivals," said Amal H. Assa'ad, MD, FAAAAI and Chair of the AAAAI Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee. "There are many questions about ingredients, preparations and possible cross-contamination that if left unanswered could lead to an allergic reaction."

The stakes are high. A single bite of the wrong food can induce anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction, in severely allergic people. The AAAAI estimates that up to 150 people die each year from anaphylaxis caused by food allergy.

More commonly, allergic reactions to food result in skin irritation, asthma symptoms or gastrointestinal upset. But even mild symptoms can quickly spoil the fun of a summer festival, ball game or wedding.

Food allergic people should always be aware that allergens can show up in unexpected places. In an effort to eliminate trans-fat, for example, many vendors have switched to peanut oil or soybean oil for their fryers. Some people with allergies to peanut or soy can also experience reactions to these oils.

An allergist/immunologist can identify the specific risks for an individual and provide information and support for avoiding the problem foods.

AAAAI offers these tips to avoid a serious allergic reaction to food:

1. Diagnose allergies -- Visit an allergist/immunologist for a medical diagnosis of food allergies.

2. Avoid the food -- The best way to prevent food allergy is to avoid the specific foods to which you are allergic.

3. Ask about ingredients -- To avoid eating a "hidden" food allergen away from home, inquire about the ingredients in a food item and inform party hosts, service staff, or vendors of the severity of your allergy.

4. Read food labels -- The United States and many other countries have adopted food labeling rules that ensure common allergens are listed. It is important for food-allergic people to carefully read all food labels.

5. Be prepared for emergencies -- Anaphylactic reactions caused by food allergies can be life-threatening. Those who have had a severe reaction in the past should carry self-injectable epinephrine at all times.

Learn more about food allergies at summer events or find an allergist in your area at http://www.aaaai.org.

Source: Medical News Today

The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI is the United States' largest professional membership organization dedicated to the allergy/immunology specialty. The AAAAI has nearly 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. For more information, visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

© 2008 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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