Food Allergy Awareness week (13-19 May 2018) is an initiative put forward by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), with the aim of improving the public’s understanding of the potentially life-threatening nature of food allergies which many people suffer from. Food allergies can be confused with more common and less severe food intolerances. It is important to understand how food allergies are different, and how, without proper medical attention, they can be fatal.
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a protein found in food – an allergen. As a result, chemicals are released in the body. It is these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Although some allergic reactions can be mild, others are severe.
Food allergies are commonly divided into three types:
Food allergies usually start in infancy. Although almost any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, there are certain types which more commonly cause a reaction:
Common symptoms of a food allergy include:
In the case of anaphylaxis, these symptoms can be accompanied by breathing difficulties, increased heartbeat, confusion and loss of consciousness. The rapid onset of these symptoms can be fatal.
Anaphylaxis is a serious medical emergency. NHS guidance sets out what to do if someone has the symptoms of anaphylaxis:
Getting information out to the public on food allergies is vital to prevent avoidable fatalities. More information on food allergies can be found on the FARE website: www.foodallergy.org and also on NHS UK:
If you or your family have had experience of a delay in treatment of a food allergy leading to an avoidable adverse outcome, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced clinical negligence team who will be happy to help.