What’s A Food Allergy & How To Treat It: Food Allergy 101 [PDF]

I created an in-depth Food Allergy 101 Presentation that is able to be clicked through, listened to, or read in this blog post below. It covers a lot of food allergy basics, defines what a food allergy is, how to treat it and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction, and more.

Audio File & PDF Presentation TOC:

  • What Is A Food Allergy?
    • A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response.
    • The symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild to severe.
  • Food Allergy Statistics
    • 32 million Americans have food allergies
    • 5.6 million children with food allergies are under age 18
    • ~40 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food
    • More than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions
    • A food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER every 3 minutes
    • Healthcare claim lines with a diagnosis of anaphylaxis food reactions increased 377% between 2007 and 2016
  • What Are The Most Common Food Allergies & Alternatives To Those?
    • Gluten
      • Examples: Wheat germ, bran, barley
      • Common Gluten Alternatives: Rice pasta, gluten-free flours like almond flour or tapioca flour
    • Eggs
      • Examples: Mayonnaise, baked goods, bread, marshmallows, ice cream
      • Common Egg Alteratives: Mashed banana, applesauce, and flax seeds with water
    • Dairy
      • Examples: Cow’s milk, cream, sour cream, yogurt
      • Common Dairy Alternatives: Nut milk like coconut or almond milk, rice milk
    • Soy
      • Examples: Soy sauce, edamame, tofu, miso, tempeh, soy protein
      • Common Soy Alternatives: Coconut aminos, beans and legumes
    • Peanuts
      • Examples: Peanut butter, peanut oil, trail mix, baked goods, chili
      • Common Peanut Alternatives: Sunbutter, tree nut butter, sunflower oil, avocado oil, tahini
    • Fish
      • Examples: Tuna, salmon, catfish, cod
      • Common Fish Alternatives: Chicken, Beef, Pork, vegetarian meat substitutes, carrots, mushrooms
    • Shellfish
      • Examples: Shrimp, crab, mussels, lobster, oyster
      • Common Shellfish Alternatives: Salmon, Cod, Swordfish, Chicken, Halibut, vegetarian meat substitutes, carrots, mushrooms
    • Tree Nuts
      • Examples: Walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pecan, etc.
      • Common Tree Nut Alternatives: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, coconut items
  • U.S. Food Labeling Confusion & How To Read Labels
    • The U.S. food labeling laws are lacking and not supporting consumers and the public. The FDA only requires the Top 8 (Top 9 in January 2023) allergens to be labeled if purposefully put in a product, but not if it’s on shared equipment with a top allergen and shared facility. This causes cross-contact contamination that’s unable to be traced and this information is not legally required to be provided to the public ingesting these ingredients unknowingly. There’s no regulation around “may contain” type statements and claims made by food manufacturers, so they are not to be trusted unless you’ve contacted the brand and asked more about what their statement means. For example, right now in the U.S. products marked and advertised as “nut-free” may contain nuts, be made in facilities and on shared lines with nuts, and so on, without brand/company repercussions.
  • What Is Cross-Contact?
  • How To Prevent Cross-Contact
    • Wiping down potentially contaminated surfaces and high-touch items often such as your phone, door handles, credit cards and money.
    • Washing hands often.
    • Being mindful when touching shared spaces/items.
    • Contacting food brands before consuming to ask if your allergen is in the same facility, depending on where you fall on the food allergy spectrum.
  • What Is Epinephrine (Epi-pen, Auvi-Q, generic, etc.)
    • Epinephrine is the only potentially life-saving option for life-threatening anaphylaxis, and epinephrine is adrenaline. Epinephrine typically is released in our body during acute stress, and is the same thing we feel when experiencing “fight or flight”.
  • F.A.S.T. Signs Of Anaphylaxis & How To Administer Epinephrine
    • Thankfully, each epinephrine injector comes with a set of instructions specific to it. These can vary, so that’s why it’s important to check each epi-pen type product for instructions.
    • The acronym F.A.S.T stands for: Face (gives, itching, redness, swelling), Airway (sneezing, nasal congestion, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, Stomach (stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea), Total Body (hives, itching, swelling, weakness, rapid pulse, loss of consciousness, dizziness, sense of doom).
    • 6 steps That Could Save A Life:
      • Lie the person on their back
      • Inject epinephrine in outer-side of mid-thigh with an auto-injector, following the manufacturer’s instructions
      • Contact 911/emergency services to get to a hospital for oxygen monitoring and potential second reaction
      • While waiting for services, monitor the person for trouble breathing or vomiting
      • If symptoms persist, or the first epinephrine misfires, inject a second dose
      • Note the time of injections to be able to communicate to emergency services and the hospital
  • Prevention Of Allergens Is Key
    • There is no known cause of food allergies or food allergy cure, so typically doctors recommend that prevention of the allergen and avoidance is the best “treatment”.
  • Non-Food Items & Surprising Places You May Find Hidden Allergens
    • Examples: Dog treats and food, hair dye, household cleaning products, medications, non-food products that go on the skin like lotions and make-up
  • Resource Links To Keep Food-Allergic Individuals Safe & Included

PDF/Audio Introduction & Disclaimer

When I created this PowerPoint deck and audio presentation back in early 2019, I was still using the terms “cross-contamination” and “cross-contact” interchangeably. Since then I’ve learned that cross-contact is the correct word to use when discussing contamination of food allergen particles and trace amounts, and have even made an article comparing and contrasting the two terms since it can be so confusing: Cross-Contact vs. Cross-Contamination: What’s The Difference? 

Food Allergy Presentation Audio:

Food Allergy PowerPoint PDF:

Food Allergy Cross-Contact 101 PDF Presentation

How Did This Food Allergy PowerPoint Presentation Come About?

In October 2019 I did a Lunch & Learn presentation for my employer at the time, on food allergies. It was a part of their DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiative. It was remote and open to all 500+ employees, and I focused on food allergy awareness & ways people can help support those with life-threatening food allergies.

It was a great experience and opportunity to inform others at my workplace and in my community about food allergies and the dangers of cross-contact, while also getting my own experience doing my first professional PowerPoint presentation on the subject.

My workplace was peanut-free for me as an accommodation, and they placed signage around the building requesting no one bring in peanut products or eat peanut ingredients in the office, so it was nice to share my perspective as the allergic individual behind the accommodation. I assumed many people saw the signs around the office and didn’t have a face to put with it or context going any further, so it felt good to give this overview of food allergies and to promote food allergy awareness by educating others interested and curious about learning more.

In my resources page and linked here is a printable version of the workplace sign that was strategically placed around the office building. I was really proud of myself after finishing my presentation, and I can’t recall the exact number of attendees but it was upwards of 60 people spending their lunch break with me learning about food allergies and cross-contact! I got a lot of comments in the chat and messages from people afterward following up with questions and stories of their own, which was wonderful.

I was told I would eventually be getting the live PowerPoint presentation with my audio over the top of it, however, it’s 2022 now and I’m still waiting on that! I assume it’s not coming, so I have the two separately uploaded here below. Feel free to share the PowerPoint PDF and recorded audio. If you have a food allergy or disability and would like to give a presentation like this one day, my hope is that these examples may be a tool that can help you on your journey. Feel free to write to me via my contact form anytime as well with any questions. 

Food Allergy FAQs

What Are Food Allergies?

A food allergy is an immune system bodily reaction that occurs soon after eating an allergenic food. Food allergies are a spectrum, so every individual is different, but for some, a tiny amount of allergy-causing food can trigger mild to life-threatening symptoms.

What Is Cross-Contact?

Food-related cross-contact happens when a food allergen comes into contact with another food, object, or surface that does not purposefully contain the allergen. Because of this, foods and surfaces then may contain trace amounts of the allergen, which are tiny and therefore undetectable amounts. For some food-allergic people, cross-contact with their allergen can cause the same anaphylaxis immune response in their body as ingesting the life-threatening food allergen.

What Kills Peanut Protein?

The only way to remove peanut protein is to clean the surface, it will live for hundreds of days or longer if it has not been removed. To clean the surface, soap and water are the most effective tools. In addition, for removing peanut residue from your hands, use soap and water and rinse thoroughly until you get suds. If you don’t have access to water, wet wipes can be used to clean your hands instead of hand sanitizer. You don’t want to rely on hand sanitizer because it does not remove or kill peanut protein.

Like this content? Stay a while! Explore other Invisibly Allergic Resources and consider subscribing below to get email alerts when a new food allergy blog post is published.

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