May is Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month

 

Who has life-threatening allergies?

Approximately 6 million children in the United States have food allergies.

 

What is a food allergy?

The Mayo Clinic defines a food allergy as “an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food.”

For some people, even a tiny amount of the allergen will trigger an allergic reaction. Some of the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include digestive problems, hives, or swollen airways. However, some people have life-threatening food allergies that trigger severe symptoms or even life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis.

Food allergy facts according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:

    • Tingling or itching in the mouth
    • Hives, itching, or eczema
    • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat, or other parts of the body
    • Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing
    • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

Sometimes allergy symptoms are severe enough to lead to anaphylaxis, a very serious allergic reaction that can be fatal.

Children with food allergies are 2 to 4 times more likely to have asthma.


Anaphylaxis Facts

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Not all allergic reactions are anaphylaxis. The symptoms usually involve more than one body part and can quickly worsen. The symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:

    • Constriction and tightening of the airways, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, coughing, or wheezing
    • Hives (often very itchy), flushed skin, or rash
    • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
    • Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat; tingling or itchy feeling in the mouth
    • Stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, low blood pressure, shock
    • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
    • Rapid pulse
    • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness

 

Anaphylaxis requires immediate emergency medical treatment. Failure to obtain immediate emergency medical treatment for anaphylaxis can result in death.

Increasing Rates of Food Allergies

Recent statistics show that about 8% of children under age 5 and 5.8% of all United States children have food allergies.

The rates for non-Hispanic Black children were higher (7.6%) than those of non-Hispanic white children (5.5%).

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report that the percentage of food allergies in children has increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.


The Most Common Allergens

What Does All This Mean for Your Student with Autism?

Nine foods cause most food allergy reactions in the United States:

    1. Milk.
    2. Eggs.
    3. Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
    4. Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams)
    5. Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios)
    6. Peanuts.
    7. Wheat.
    8. Soy and soybeans.
    9. Sesame*

*Sesame is a rising food allergy. It impacts an estimated 1 million people in the United States. It was declared a major allergen in the United States in 2021.


Asthma

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic, long-term disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the airways.

When asthma strikes, the airways narrow and the body cannot carry air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.

Symptoms of Asthma

    • Trouble breathing (shortness of breath)
    • wheezing
    • coughing
    • tightness or pain in the chest

Asthma Triggers

Asthma symptoms can be triggered by various conditions, environments, or activities. Allergens, like dust or pet dander, are common triggers. Sometimes certain foods or even exercise can trigger asthma symptoms in other people.

Who Has Asthma?

In the United States, about 5 million children have asthma, making it the leading chronic disease in children.

Like food allergies, asthma has a disparate impact on black children, who have almost three times the rate as white children.

Boys are more likely to have asthma than girls (8.4% v. 5.5%).


Impact

Eleven people in the United States die from asthma every day. The right treatment could likely avoid almost all of those deaths.

How to Protect Your Child in School

School students who have a mental or physical impairment that substantially impacts one or more major life activities have the right to the protection of a 504 Plan. Asthma and severe allergies qualify a student for a 504 Plan.

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 Plan is a plan for school students who meet the above criteria and will provide them with reasonable accommodations that give them equal access to educational programs.

How can a 504 Plan protect my child in school?

An appropriate 504 Plan will help your child with significant food allergies or asthma to stay safe throughout their school day so they can learn and benefit from any and all educational programs offered. Those accommodations may include restrictions on food in your child’s classroom, the appointment of delegates to ensure epinephrine injectors are always near your child during the school day, or the steps of an emergency medical plan should your child require urgent medical care.


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