According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylactic Network (FAAN), one in 25 Americans suffers from food allergies, with children ages 3 and under accounting for one in 17 of the diagnosed cases. Food allergies, such as to peanuts, have doubled in the last five to 10 years, and experts aren't sure why this potentially life-threatening problem is becoming more prevalent. They do know, however, that avoiding allergenic foods is the best guarantee to keep kids (and adults) safe from allergic reactions.
When her son was diagnosed with severe food allergies before his first birthday, Kelly Rudnicki felt dumbfounded and helpless. She didn't know much about food allergies, nor did she know any other children who suffered from them. "I'll never forget the paralyzing fear I felt realizing that I was solely responsible for keeping my son safe and alive," says Rudnicki, who later launched the food allergy awareness blog www.FoodAllergyMama.com. Rudnicki's son is allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts.
Because of the growing number of children suffering with food allergies, parents of food-allergic children have an increasing number of allergen-free resources on which to rely when modifying the family diet. Schools are also adopting district-wide policies to keep students safe.
Rudnicki is on a mission to not just raise awareness of food allergies, but also the ways parents, schools and communities at large can keep food-allergic children from feeling excluded from their peers or unable to live a normal life. "We have to get better about developing policies to ensure our children's safety at school, camp and even sports games," says the concerned mom. "In addition to awareness at schools, we need to have updated policies at restaurants and airlines." Rudnicki is also advocating for the government to allocate more money on food allergy research. "It's ridiculous how little money is given to food allergy research projects in comparison to other medical issues," she adds.
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