Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the importance of allergy awareness. For those individuals with food allergies, severe allergic reactions can occur quickly and without warning. In fact, some can be life-threatening for people of all ages, particularly children.
It is estimated, based on clinically documented cases, that approximately 1.8 million Canadians may be affected by food allergies. Some studies indicate that these numbers are increasing, especially among children. Peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, soy, seafood, wheat, eggs, milk, mustard and sulphites are the food allergens most commonly associated with severe allergic reactions in Canada.
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 type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include breathing difficulties or a drop in blood pressure with shock, which may result in loss of consciousness, and even death.
It is always important to read food labels if you are affected by food allergies. Canada's new food allergen labelling regulation came into force on August 1, 2012. They provide clearer ingredient labels so that consumers can better avoid foods that contain an ingredient to which they are allergic or sensitive. Health Canada has also refined its definition of gluten free, which will increase food choices available to Canadians living with celiac disease.
There is no cure for food allergies. Avoiding an allergen is the only effective way to prevent allergic reactions. There are many important steps that you can take to help protect yourself. Some general tips include:
-- 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; for example, precautionary statements like "may contain X" (where "X" is the name of a commonly known allergen).
-- Avoid food products that don't list their ingredients or food products that contain an ingredient that you don't recognize. -- When eating at a friend's home 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 Medic Alert identifier so that, in case of an accident, others know about your allergies and reactions.
Source: Health Canada