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Is it just ‘fussy eating’? How careful do you need to be? And will it hurt ‘just a tiny bit’? Here’s a list of the things you shouldn’t say to someone with a food allergy.
If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to something you’ve eaten, or you know someone who has, then you’re likely to be clued up on just how serious food allergies can be. But for those who have never experienced it, the daily realities of living with a food allergy can seem a bit strange. The level of care taken by people with food allergies can even seem a bit over the top.
To try and help make it easier to understand, here are seven things that you definitely shouldn’t say to someone who has a food allergy.
1. “It isn’t possible to be allergic to [insert your food allergy here]”
Yes, it is. Although there are just a handful of culprits that cause 90% of all allergic reactions to food (celery, crustaceans, eggs, fish, gluten, lupin flour, milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts, sesame seeds, soya, and sulphites) pretty much any food can be an allergen1. If your body mistakenly thinks that a certain food is a threat, your immune system kicks in to ‘defend’ you. This releases chemicals which cause symptoms including swelling, vomiting, rashes and, in serious cases, anaphylaxis. This reaction can be triggered by almost any type of food.
2. "You’re just a fussy eater”
No, they’re not. Well, they might be – but that’s a separate issue to their food allergy. An allergic reaction to food is often very serious and can be life threatening. Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, can cause the sufferer to have breathing difficulties and lose consciousness2. Without speedy medical attention, this can be fatal2. They’re not being fussy; they’re avoiding an allergic reaction which would ruin everyone’s day (at the very least).
3. “Just a tiny bit won’t hurt you”
Actually, it might. For many people, even a trace of their allergen can trigger a reaction. So picking the culprit out of a meal after it has been cooked is a no-no. If you are preparing food for someone with a food allergy, make sure your utensils and surfaces are also clean and clear of the allergen. For someone with a serious allergy, even contaminated cutlery can be enough to set off a reaction3. Another misconception is that introducing small amounts of the allergen over time will ‘build up their tolerance’. It won’t2.
4. “I’ll just cook it out’
Nope, you can’t do that either. It doesn’t matter how long you cook the food for and it doesn’t matter what temperature you heat it to1, an allergen is an allergen and you can’t cook it out. It needs to be avoided right from the start.
5. “Hardly anyone else I know has a food allergy”
That might be the case, but food allergies are common in the UK, affecting around 2 million people. Currently, around 5% of adults and 2% of children have a food allergy and the number is rising1. Rates of food allergies have risen sharply in the last 20 years and no one really knows why2. However, deaths from food allergies are rare and getting rarer – there are around 10 deaths from anaphylaxis in England and Wales each year2.
6.“Just because you have a food allergy, that doesn’t mean your child will”
True, but anyone with an immediate family member with a food allergy has an increased chance of having an allergic reaction to food1. Anyone who is at risk of an undiscovered food allergy should have an allergy test, including those with family members who are affected. Most allergies are diagnosed in early childhood, so new parents who have a food allergy should get the child tested at a young age.
7.“You’ll grow out of it”
Well, you might. Most young children with an allergy to milk or eggs grow out of it by the age of five2. However, people with allergies to nuts, fish or seafood are very unlikely to grow out of it1.
So, if you have a friend or family member with a food allergy, it’s time to wise up on how best to support them – they will be living with their allergy for a long time.
At BMI Healthcare we can help diagnose, treat or manage your allergies. Find out more about our Allergy & Immunology treatments here.
To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.