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Food allergies on the rise, doctors say

April 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Recent numbers on food allergies show they are widespread. One statistic reveals one in 13 children is affected by them. While some people outgrow their food allergies, many adults still suffer from them. Unfortunately too many don't realize how serious they can be and how quickly they can escalate into severe, even fatal, reactions.

They get constant reminding. Christian, 14, and Tyler, 12, are well aware of how to survive severe food allergies.

The brothers are allergic to milk, peanuts, seafood and sesame seeds. It's so extreme just touching an offending substance can cause symptoms.

The boys carry EpiPens filled with epinephrine just in case. Their parents know they can never be too cautious.

"It takes a lot of planning," said Bernie Lum, the boys' mother. "So Randall and I will go to the restaurant first, talk to the chef and then if they can do it, then we have the kids come and we go to the restaurant."

"Food allergies have been increasing at a rapid rate over the past 10 years," said allergist Dr. Katie Marks, South Bay Allergy and Asthma.

Marks says many people don't realize how quickly food allergies can kill. She says a mild reaction once before doesn't mean it won't be dangerous the next time.

In seconds, allergens can swell tissue and constrict airways. But that's not all.

"Your cardiovascular system can, what we call 'collapse,' and basically that means you're in shock," said Marks.

It's unpredictable. If somebody is getting a severe reaction to food they might want to wait around to see how bad it actually is, but Marks says you don't want to wait to use your EpiPen cause that could be dangerous.

"And so way to use it really is just pull off the safety cap and place this onto the thigh," said Marks.

After using an EpiPen, experts say you should go to the emergency room. A third of patients have a second reaction.

Life-threatening foods may be everywhere, but the Lums plan and prepare. They don't let fear rule their lives.

"Food is something to get by and to live. It's not your life," said Randall Lum.

Having food allergies mean you never take anything for granted.


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