When even one drink could kill you (the dangers of food allergies)

The recipe, scribbled on the bar at the Brooklyn club, looked delicious — mezcal muddled with basil and lime, and a dash of club soda. But the first sip raised a familiar itch in my throat. The bartender had not rinsed the milk, an ingredient in a previous order, from the shaker, which meant my lips would now be swollen for hours.

Given food allergies like mine, $8 wasted and a few hives is a lucky night; an unlucky one involves an ambulance. I’m at risk for anaphylactic shock, a rapid systemic shutdown that can affect blood pressure and breathing. Even with increased social awareness of allergies and ready administration of epinephrine (which I carry), the danger is real. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that food allergies cause an average of 30,000 emergency-room visits each year and 150 deaths.

Mostly, we think of this as a problem for children, who account for 40 percent of all allergy sufferers in the United States and experience anaphylaxis at higher rates than adults. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 50 percent increase in food allergies among children between 1997 and 2011. Up to 8 percent of all American children now have at least one significant food allergy, and almost 40 percent of food-allergic children have a history of severe reactions. Each year, families spend approximately $25 billion on accommodating these issues. Schools, stadiums, and other public spaces have radically improved allergy precautions for children, some of whom will outgrow their sensitivities.

Read the rest of this piece on food allergies

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