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Fit Club: Food allergy awareness

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This week is National Food Allergy Awareness Week. Did you know every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room?

Food allergies are a growing public health issue that affects children and adults. The most common food allergies are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, crustacean shellfish and fish.

"We see more seafood allergy in adults, than in children, because children don't eat so much seafood," said Savannah Allergy Associates Dr. Melvin Haysman.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food allergy affects nearly 4 percent of adults and teens and 5 percent of children under the age of 6 years.

Many people think the terms food allergy and food intolerance mean the same thing; this assumption is inaccurate. Food intolerance, unlike a food allergy, does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening.

So What exactly is a food allergy? Haysman explains.

"An allergy would be if you experience abdominal pain, develop hives, get itchy palms, get flush when you eat a certain food, tightness of your chest or wheezing, if you experience any of those things you might consider you are developing an allergen," Haysman said.

There are no medications that cure food allergies. Strict avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction. Haysman recommends making a commitment to healthy eating and even switching to organic foods can help lesson symptoms people with allergies often face.

Some studies show that organic foods have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally grown counterparts.

"Eat sensibly eat a balanced diet," Haysman said. "Those are important things to do."

There are no medications that cure food allergies. Strict avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction. Many people outgrow their food allergies, although peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are often considered lifelong allergies.

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