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Caution: People Have Serious Allergies

February 5, 2016

Peanuts photo by Dean Hochman via Flickr

By Maya K.

Many people don’t realize that allergies can be very serious. There are many types of allergies, like environmental allergies to grass and pollen. Some people are allergic to animal dander or stings. One of the most dangerous kinds of allergies is food allergies. Food is everywhere and people need it to survive so it is hard to avoid.

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), food allergies affect up to 15 million people in the United States, including 1 in 13 children. That means that in every community all over the country, people suffer from food allergies.

At Montclair, third grade student Monet A. is allergic to nuts. She found out she had these serious allergies when she was two years old. She was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when she had her first reaction. When she eats nuts, she itches really badly, and her eyes and lips swell and it gets harder for her to breathe, a reaction known as “anaphylaxis.” Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening.

When Montclair parent Lisa Diamond eats certain foods, her throat feels fuzzy or her tongue swells. Doctors haven’t figured out what causes her allergy, but Lisa and her family have figured out she is allergic to a type of sugar in some fruit, like oranges. When she was a child, Lisa thought it was normal to have this happen because nobody knew much about severe allergic reactions at that time.

Kristen Duprel, a former OUSD teacher and current assistant principal in San Jose, is allergic to all nuts except peanuts and almonds. She had her first reaction when she was eating rocky road ice cream when she was three years old. Her mom said she started scratching her face after eating the ice cream. She went to the doctor and found out she was allergic to nuts. She has had an anaphylactic reaction about seven times. “It’s a very scary reaction because it is extremely hard to breathe,” Kristen said. She said when she had her first anaphylactic reaction, in college, “I didn’t know what was going on…The paramedics came to my dorm room…and immediately gave me the Epi-Pen and took me to the hospital.”

Monet, Lisa, and Kristen have advice for people who have food allergies and people who don’t. “Be aware,” said Lisa. “You are the person responsible for you. Better to be safe than sorry.”
For kids who don’t have food allergies, Monet wants people to know that “Nuts can be just as dangerous as running around on the freeway.”

So be aware, because anybody anywhere can have a serious allergy.

Tips for people with food allergies:

  • Don’t share food, especially if it’s homemade.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if there are nuts in food.
  • Read the labels on things you buy at the store.
  • At restaurants, ask the waiter if the foods you are allergic to are used in the restaurant and in the things you’re ordering.
  • If you use an Epi-Pen, always keep it close by.
  • Make sure the people around you know about your allergies and how to help you.

Helping people with food allergies:

  • Try not to bring nuts to school or other public places.
  • Wash your hands after eating products containing nuts.
  • Always take it seriously if someone asks if there are nuts in food.
  • If you’re helping someone experiencing anaphylaxis, stay calm.

Author Maya K. has food allergies to tree nuts.

Photo: Dean Hochman via Flickr / Creative Commons

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