Welcome to World Allergy Week

WAWlogo_clearToday marks the start of the World Allergy Organization’s (WAO) annual World Allergy Week.

During the 2013 event, WAO together with its 93 national Member Societies, will be addressing the topic of “Food Allergy – A Rising Global Health Problem,” and its growing burden on children.

Globally, it’s estimated that as many as 220-250 million people suffer from food allergy.  And the incidence is on the rise in both developed and developing countries, especially in children.

During World Allergy Week WAO plans to highlight the need for greater awareness and understanding of food allergy as well as the exchange of ideas and collaboration in order to address a variety of safety and quality-of-life issues related to the care of patients with food sensitivity.

According to Professor Ruby Pawankar, President of the World Allergy Organization, “There are problems that need to be addressed in many countries throughout the world such as the lack of awareness of food allergies, lack of standardized national anaphylaxis action plans for food allergy, limited or no access to epinephrine auto-injectors, and the lack of food labeling laws. Moreover, some countries have standardized action plans but no ready access to auto-injectors; while others have auto-injectors but no standardized action plans.”

An important part of the initiative of World Allergy Week 2013 is to advocate for the safety and quality of life of patients who suffer from food hypersensitivity. WAO has also produced a list of online food allergy resources for healthcare professionals and patients / caregivers, which we have reproduced below.

HEALTHCARE RESOURCES

Kids Teased about Food Allergies No Laughing Matter

Access the article

WAO White Book on Allergy

Access the book

Food Allergy: Pathogenesis and Prevention
World Allergy Forum, December 2012, Orlando, Florida, USA
Access the presentations

Food Allergy
Cassim Motala, Joaquín Sastre, Dolores Ibáñez
WAO Global Resources in Allergy (GLORIA™), 2009, updated 2011
Access slide deck

Cow’s Milk Allergy in Children
Access the summary

Anaphylaxis
Richard F. Lockey, September 2012, updated Disease Summary

Access the summary

WAO Diagnosis and Rationale for Action against Cow’s Milk Allergy (DRACMA) Guidelines
Access the article

ICON: Food Allergy
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2012; 129(4): 906-920
Access the article

World Allergy Organization Guidelines for the Assessment and Management of Anaphylaxis
World Allergy Organization Journal, 4:13-37, February 2011
Access the article

PATIENT / CAREGIVER RESOURCES

PrintFood Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

The FARE website has an abundant source of valuable resources specifically for patients suffering from food allergies and the people who care for them, including:


anaphylaxis-campaignAnaphylaxis Campaign

The Anaphylaxis Campaign is a UK charity catering exclusively to the needs of people at risk from anaphylaxis by providing information and support relating to foods and other triggers such as latex, drugs and insect stings.
The AllergyWise online programs provide training for families, carers and individuals as well as health professionals. General information on Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergy

SRxA-logo for web

Read Yourself Thin?

Need to lose some pounds before the holidays? Then start reading. Yes, yes, we know you’re already reading this blog (thank you)…but what you really need to start doing, according to a new study, is reading food labels while you shop.

You see, people, and women in particular, who read food labels while they grocery shop weigh, on average, 9 pounds less than people who don’t.

An international team of scientists led by Maria Loureiro, of the University of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain analyzed more than 25,000 observations on health, eating and shopping habits from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.  Among the data collected were responses about reading nutritional information in supermarkets.

First we analyzed who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight,” said Loureiro.

The study found big differences between the people who read food labels and those who did not. Interestingly, smokers paid little attention to the nutritional information on foods.

Their lifestyle involves less healthy habits and, as a consequence, it could be the case that they are not so worried about the nutritional content of the food they eat, according to our results,” the researchers suggested.

People who live in cities were the most careful about reading food labels. People with high school and college educations also paid more attention to nutritional labels. Fifty-eight percent of men took the time to read labels, compared with 74% of women. And white women who lived in cities read food labels most often.

On average, women who read the nutritional information have a body-mass index of 1.48 points lower, whereas this difference is just 0.12 points in men,” Loureiro said. “We know that this information can be used as a mechanism to prevent obesity.”

The researchers suggest that campaigns and public policy should be designed to promote the use of nutritional labeling, not just on the foods we buy in stores but also on menus at restaurants and other public establishments.

As someone, who lives the vida low-carb, I for one would fully support this move.  Would you?

Back-to-school lesson on food allergies

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), nearly six million children across the United States suffer from food allergies. Of those, more than 300,000 were admitted to hospital in the last year alone. To help ensure your food allergic child doesn’t suffer the same fate, SRxA’s Word on Health offers some simple Back-to-School tips for parents. The key to preventing allergic reactions and anaphylaxisis preparation:

  • Contact the school well in advance of the first day of class and let your child’s teachers, coaches and school nurse know about their allergies
  • Provider the school with a copy of your Child’s Anaphylaxis Action Plan
  • Find out about field trips, parties, and special events such as Halloween or Valentine’s to ensure that allergens don’t sneak in along with other treats
  • Meet with key personnel that will take care of your child if a reaction occurs
  • Find out what plans are already in place for children with food allergies and what steps will be taken if an allergic reaction occurs at school
  • Ensure that any medication, such as an EpiPen, on that plan has a physician’s order to cover it at school and that medication is readily available to personnel if it needs to be administered
  • Teach your child what foods are off limits
  • Teach your child to recognize symptoms and let an adult know immediately if they think they might be suffering an allergic reaction.
  • Make sure your child understands not to trade food with others or eat anything with unknown ingredients.

Schools and teachers can also prepare themselves for the food allergic children in their class.  FAAN produces some excellent resources as part of its Safe@School campaign. For example, they offer expert in-service training to school districts to prepare staff to confidently CARE™ for students with food allergies by teaching them how to: In addition, FAAN provides training presentations, suitable for elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities. So whether you’re a child, parent or teacher dealing with food allergies, be prepared, be safe and CARE this back-to-school season.

New Guidelines may help Food-Allergic Children Feel Safer

Food allergy affects up to 6% of children and results in an estimated 150-200 fatalities each year in the U.S. Accidental exposures are common and occur in homes, restaurants and schools.

Now a new study has shown that children who have experienced life-threatening anaphylactic shock from food have significantly different views of the risks associated with their allergies.

As these children mature into teenagers they become even more afraid of their food allergies, feel less confident about their surroundings and the level of information possessed by school personnel and even their parents.

High schools were perceived as less safe because of the lack of homerooms and unsupervised lunch areas. Elementary schools were considered safer because of the stronger presence of parents and consistent routines involving supervised lunch rooms, trained personnel, and communication strategies.

The study involved 20 children with severe food allergies.  They were interviewed about their experiences living with and managing a chronic medical condition that requires them to carry an EpiPen and remain keenly alert to their surroundings.

Both age groups identified environmental and social barriers that contributed to feelings of isolation, exclusion or being teased. Missing out on school activities, camps, or time with friends was common.

Young children relied more on parents and teachers to cope, whereas adolescents often anxiously fended for themselves by avoiding risky foods, educating others, navigating confusing food labels and quickly escaping from unsafe places. Some felt disempowered and overburdened and even developed symptoms like constant hand washing or waiting to eat until an adult was present who was available to drive them to the hospital.

SRxA‘s Word on Health is hopeful that new guidelines produced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for both clinicians and patients will help.

They include a definition of food allergy, discuss co-morbid conditions associated with food allergy, and focus on reactions to food. Topics addressed include the epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of food allergy, as well as the management of severe symptoms and anaphylaxis.  In addition they provide 43 concise clinical recommendations and guidance on points of current controversy in patient management.

Pass the Nuts!

Although living with an acute peanut allergy can be scary and potentially life-threatening, according to the latest research from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) it doesn’t mean that schools and airlines should totally eliminate peanuts from their surroundings.

People with severe peanut allergies can work with their allergist to develop an action plan to prevent or manage attacks,” said ACAAI President, Dr. Sami Bahna.

Highly allergic people may react after ingesting minute hidden quantities of peanuts or even after touching or smelling peanuts. These patients often live in fear they will come in contact with peanuts but however much they try to avoid them, there is no guarantee that specific allergens can be removed entirely from an environment.

“Unfortunately, life is not risk-free,” said Dr. Bahna. “A minority of people are severely allergic to peanuts, but it is not reasonable or possible to expect schools or airlines to be peanut-free. Consideration should be also given to the freedom of the vast majority of non-allergic persons. Also, peanut is not the only food that can cause severe allergy.”

Dr. Bahna suggests that people and parents of children with severe peanut allergies check to be sure the school and airline carry emergency treatment and educate their personnel about food allergies, rather than call for an out and out ban.

Love Hurts!

SRxA’s Word on Health team just returned from a memorable trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  In addition to managing a number of highly successful events, meeting many of our wonderful clients and spending some quality time with our Advisors; we were able to catch up with all the latest news from the field of asthma, allergy and immunology.

During one of the more memorable sessions, we learned that kissing and um, er, let’s just say, more intimate contact, can be fraught with danger for those with allergies, while in another we found out that everything from our makeup, to our cell phones might be making us sick.

Over the coming days we’ll be sharing the congress highlights with are readers, but in the meantime, let’s get back to kissing…

According to Dr. Sami Bahna, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while allergic reactions from kissing are relatively uncommon, they do occur.

Apparently, allergens from food substances can linger in a partner’s saliva up to a full day following ingestion, irrespective of tooth-brushing, rinsing, flossing  or other interventions such as chewing gum.

And if you’re one of the 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies we’re not just talking about a passionate kiss. Even a kiss on the cheek or the forehead from a partner who has consumed an identified allergen can cause a severe reaction ranging from lip-swelling, throat-swelling, rash, hives, itching, and/or wheezing immediately after kissing.

And kissing isn’t the only form of romantic activity that can trigger allergic reactions in the highly sensitive. The ACAAI notes that sexual intercourse can pose its own hazards, given that some patients are allergic to chemicals found in spermicides, lubricants and/or latex condoms.  Even sperm can prompt an allergic reaction in some, as can the more general emotional and physical exertion of intercourse itself.

When it comes to semen allergy, Bahna said antihistamines can sometimes help with mild issues, as can immunotherapy treatments offered by allergists. Condoms can also help, as long as a person is not allergic to latex!

Despite these warnings, Bahna stressed, “I do not want this discussion to cause all people with allergies to live in fear. If your girlfriend or your wife is not very allergic to peanuts she won’t be affected by a kiss from a person who ate peanuts.”

Additionally, allergists can help determine what’s causing the allergy and find the right treatment. They have the training and expertise to treat more than just symptoms. They can identify the source of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan to eliminate it.

You can follow the ACCAI annual meeting on Twitter at #ACAAI2010.

Heightened Scrutiny of Food & Supplement Health Claims

Health claims made by food and nutritional supplement manufacturers should face the same level of regulatory scrutiny as those made by drug and medical device manufacturers, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Food and nutritional supplement marketers often make health claims based on how individual ingredients in their products affect biomarkers (physiological characteristics that can be measured and evaluated objectively) such as cholesterol or glucose levels or tumor size. Thus, the manufacturer of a breakfast cereal that contains a cholesterol-lowering ingredient, such as fiber, might boast that its cereal has heart health benefits without clinical proof of improved outcomes.

Faced with a proliferation of health claims being made by food and supplement manufacturers, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition asked the IOM in 2008 to recommend a framework for the evaluation of biomarkers.

Commenting on the report, IOM member Harlan Krumholz, MD said, “This is a groundbreaking report that tells us we should really think carefully about the use of biomarkers and surrogates.”

SRxA’s Word on Health is pleased to hear that the food we eat will be given as much attention as the drugs we take, but hopes that the process can be somewhat faster!

Dieters Delight

If  the first thing you do when  grocery shopping is check the label for calorie content, then we have some welcome news.   Scientists estimate that calorie counts on food labels may be off by as much as 25%.

For example, independent nutritionists found that a small pepperoni pizza had only 386 calories compared to the 422 stated on the label.

Calorie calculation was created 120 years ago.  Using a device called a bomb calorimeter, American agricultural chemist Wilbur Olin Atwater burned food samples and measured the amount of energy released from the heat this produced.  He then estimated the amount of this energy the body used up, by calculating the energy of undigested food in feces and other waste products.   Atwater concluded that every gram of carbohydrates produced four calories, every gram of fat, nine calories and every gram of protein, four calories.

Ever since, these figures have been set in stone.

However new research by independent nutritionist Dr. Geoffrey Livesey, and others, has shown that the amount of calories we digest in certain foods varies. Livesey therefore suggests that the calorie content of food should be re-calculated according to its Net Metabolizable Energy otherwise known as the amount of calories left  for your body to use after the calories used in digesting it have been subtracted.  ‘We need to take into account all the considerable knowledge we have learnt since 1889 and start applying it,” said Dr. Livesey.

His findings were reviewed by the World Health Organization in 2007, which concluded his research was sound.

Your Word on Health bloggers will be celebrating the demise of calories this lunchtime with pepperoni pizza!  What else?!?