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New meaning to watch what you eat

It used to be that when someone was watching what they were eating it had to do with the total calories being consumed and the impact to a waistline.


It used to be that when someone was watching what they were eating it had to do with the total calories being consumed and the impact to a waistline.

Nowadays it seems like that has more to do with food allergies. Visit any school and chances are there will be important notices posted up concerning which foods are not permitted in the school due to students or staff having food allergies.

It was only about 20 years ago that there was a need to have food restrictions in place to protect students with peanut allergies. Parents were left to wonder, what are we going to feed our children without the good old peanut butter and jam sandwich. It took some education for everyone to understand that a peanut allergy can be a matter of life or death.

Peanut butter was just the beginning. Some of the food allergy lists The Pilot has come across at some (not all) schools in the coverage area have included items that included peanuts and nut products, fish, eggs, kiwi, strawberries, peas and even garlic.

According to Health Canada, it is estimated, based on clinically documented cases, that approximately 1.8 million Canadians may be affected by food allergies. They say that some studies indicate that these numbers are increasing, especially among children. In addition to the foods noted above, some other food allergens commonly associated with severe allergic reactions in Canada can include sesame seeds, soy, wheat, mustard and sulphites.

Health Canada notes that when someone ingests even a tiny amount of an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and become very serious. The most dangerous symptoms include breathing difficulties or a drop in blood pressure with shock, which may result in loss of consciousness, anaphylaxis and even death.

A reminder that there is no cure for food allergies. The only way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid the allergen.

Following are some Health Canada tips people can follow to protect themselves from allergens, but it is up to all of us to also follow those guidelines when packing lunches for children, hosting parties and other social situations:

* Read product labels very carefully as manufacturers sometimes change the ingredients used in familiar products.

* Avoid food products that contain the specific allergens and/or derivatives of the specific allergens to which you are allergic.

* Avoid food products that bear a precautionary statement naming an allergen that you are allergic to.

* When eating at a friend’s or in a restaurant, tell your host/server about your food allergy, and ask specific questions about the food being served.

* If an allergist prescribes an epinephrine/adrenaline auto-injector, learn how to use it properly and carry it with you at all times.

* Always wear a MedicAlert identifier so that, in case of an accident, others know about your allergies and reactions.

* Look out for allergens listed by other names; food allergens and other derivatives are sometimes found in food under different names.

Don’t forget all those people who are allergic and sensitive to scents. Wearing your favourite perfume or cologne to a school event (or visiting any number of health facilities and businesses) is becoming a no-no as well.


- Karen Wells, editor

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