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Be aware of food allergens in Valentine's Day treats

By Rosalia Vega | 11 de febrero de 2012

Dining over dim candlelight, even on Valentine’s Day, can turn a romantic interlude into a veritable disaster for those who are unaware of potential food allergens which can turn up in the least expected places. Here is some good advice from a local expert and a tip sheet from the CDC to help. Don't forget to check the allergen-free cookie recipe we added as a bonus, either!

La Prensa de San Antonio.- Dining over dim candlelight, even on Valentine’s Day, can turn a romantic interlude into a veritable disaster for those who are unaware of potential food allergens which can turn up in the least expected places. Here is some good advice from a local expert and a tip sheet from the CDC to help. Don't forget to check the allergen-free cookie recipe we added as a bonus, either!

Dr. Erika Gonzalez-Reyes, an allergist and the team coordinator of the Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACEs) San Antonio chapter knows the circumstances and suggests that being aware of allergens in everyday foods and special treats can make all the difference.

“Valentine’s Day candies, cupcakes and other traditional sweets may contain allergens such as milk, egg, peanut and tree nuts, just to name a few. In people with known food allergies, these allergens can cause anaphylaxis which is a severe allergic reaction,” Gonzalez-Reyes said.

“Many people don’t realize that anaphylaxis can be serious. Avoiding food allergens or foods whose ingredients you are unaware of is the only way to prevent symptoms,” she added.

“All it takes is a distracted moment for an allergy reaction to happen. But when food allergy accidents result in anaphylaxis, the timely use of epinephrine auto-injectors, used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, saves lives.”

The doctor also networks with nearly 200 ACEs teams nationwide to improve community and patient awareness about food allergies and treatment. The program was developed by Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) in partnership with the American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

“We want patients, families and the public to know how to identify and treat anaphylaxis in an emergency situation,” Nancy Sander, president and founder of AANMA, explained.

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction in which the airways can swell and breathing can be severely restricted. At best, the condition presents as a rash or hives but once the syndrome begins, it’s impossible to predict how severe symptoms will get. Sometimes people need help in the form of an epinephrine auto-injector to stop the progression of symptoms, which in some cases can be life-threatening.

National food allergy guidelines define preparedness as always having immediate access to at least two epinephrine auto-injector devices and knowing how and when to use them. Experts advise patients to seek emergency medical care after using the first dose. Thirty percent of patients require more than one dose of medication. A second dose should be given if symptoms do not improve before medical help arrives.

“Unlike oral antihistamines, epinephrine, given through an auto-injector device, begins working immediately and treats all phases of the reaction. It is the only medication that can work fast enough to open swollen airways and protect the heart and brain,” ACAAI President Stanley Fineman said.

The Center for Disease Control offers a tip sheet to help with food allergens:

  • Eight foods that account for 90% of all food-allergy reactions are: cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (for example: walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews), fish, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat.
  • Combined, food allergies cause 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis and 150 deaths annually.
  • Four out of every 100 children have a food allergy.
  • The median time to respiratory or cardiac arrest for food allergy: 30 min*
  • In 2007 approximately 3 million children under the age of 18 years (3.9%) were reported to have a food allergy in the past 12 months.
  • 3.3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
  • 6.9 million Americans are allergic to seafood.
  • In 2007, the reported food allergy rate among all children younger than 18 years was 18% higher than in 1997.
  • Approximately 27% children with food allergy had reported eczema or skin allergies, compared with 8% of children without food allergies.
  • Over 30% of children with food allergies also had reported respiratory allergy, compared with 9% of children with no food allergy.*
  • Hospital discharges with a diagnosis related to food allergy increased significantly over time from 1998-2000 through 2004-2006.

You can also play it safe by making your own allergen-free treats. Check out this recipe for delicious sugar cookies for Valentine's Day (pictured) from Whole Living by clicking here.

Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACEs) is an award-winning national program to raise awareness, reduce anxiety and eliminate deaths due to anaphylaxis through education, advocacy and outreach. The program is sponsored by Dey Pharma, LP. Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating suffering and death due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. For more information visit www.aanma.org. Established in 1942, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is a professional association of allergists/immunologists and allied health professionals dedicated to promoting excellence in the practice of the subspecialty of allergy and immunology. For more information visit www.acaai.org.

 

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