WHEELING - A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - unless you have a food allergy.
If you are one of the 15 million Americans with a food allergy, join the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) Walk for Food Allergy on Sunday, June 8 at Oglebay Park, Levenson Shelter from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The FARE Walk for Food Allergy will help raise critical funds to find a cure and to increase awareness about this growing issue.
The purpose of the body's immune system is to seek out and destroy "invaders," i.e., bacteria and viruses that make us sick. In the case of food allergy, the immune system mistakenly sees a harmless food protein as a threat and attacks it. The attack causes the body to release an extremely large amount of a specific antibody - immunoglobulin E - which produces excess histamine and other chemicals. The person will then exhibit symptoms of an allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening.
Union Local Elementary School recently took part in a “penny war” to raise money for the FARE Walk for Food Allergy on June 8 at Oglebay Park. Over the course of a week, students grades Pre-K through fifth grade donated $730 — mostly in loose change. The faculty and staff at the elementary school were astounded by the success of the fundraiser, including ULES Principal Dana Kendziorski, who is pictured with the collection buckets.
Food allergy affects approximately one in 13 children. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with food allergy in the U.S. grew 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. This often misunderstood disease sends someone to the emergency room every three minutes in the United States.
While it's possible for any food to cause an allergic reaction, eight foods account for nearly 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States - peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Currently, the only way to prevent a food allergy is to avoid the problem food. Sometimes, however, avoidance is difficult or impossible, so food allergy sufferers should be prepared in case of accidental exposure.
Mild or moderate allergic reactions consist of hives, itching, sneezing and rashes, and these can be treated with antihistamines and oral or topical steroids. Severe reactions (anaphylaxis) cause swelling, a drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing and can begin minutes after exposure. Therefore, anyone with anaphylaxis must act quickly and administer a self-injected dose of ephinephrine, which can reverse the symptoms of the severe reaction.
Food allergies are frightening because a person who normally has a mild reaction can one day suffer from anaphylaxis. Therefore, sufferers must practice preventive measures and carry medication with them at all times. There is no cure for food allergy, so the best defense is learning as much as possible about the condition to bolster prevention.
FARE was formed in 2012 as a result of a merger between the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and the Food Allergy Initiative. Its mission is to find a cure for food allergies and to keep individuals with food allergies safe and included through research, education, advocacy and awareness.
The FARE Walk for Food Allergy, presented by Mylan, unites thousands of Americans across the country seeking a cure and a safe and inclusive world for people with food allergies. With so many people affected by food allergies, everyone has a reason to walk - a family member, a classmate, a friend, neighbor or a colleague.
"Fifteen million people in the United States are living with food allergy, a life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease," said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of FARE. "It is for each of these individuals and their families that we work to find a cure, to educate, to advocate - and of course, walk. Every step we take, every dollar raised by our dedicated supporters and sponsors, brings us closer to the day when we say FAREwell to food allergies."
The FARE Walk is a family-friendly event that will take place in 66 communities nationwide in 2014. The 2013 FARE Walk raised a record-breaking $3.6 million for food allergy research, education, awareness and advocacy. The goal this year for the Wheeling FARE Walk is $20,000.
Participants can sign up to walk individually or as part of a team. Sponsorship opportunities are still available, enabling businesses to show their support for families who are living with food allergies. For more information, or to register or volunteer, visit www.foodallergywalk.org/wheeling.
For more information about FARE, visit www.foodallergy.org.