Feasts of BURDEN

Food intolerances and allergies are on the rise, and HHS staff, students talk of awareness, advocacy

Rory Galbraith, Chief of News

Within the school.
Within the home.
Within the family.
Food allergies are ever-present — and terrifying. Even small amounts could may cause reactions ranging from itching or stomachache to severe reactions as anaphylaxis, which “causes your immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can cause you to go into shock — your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking breathing,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
And food allergies are on the rise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention [CDC], “the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.”
There is no cure for food allergies.
“Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction,” according to the CDC. “However, because it is not always easy or possible to avoid certain foods, staff in schools, out-of-school time, and early care and education programs (ECE) should develop plans for preventing an allergic reaction and responding to a food allergy emergency, including anaphylaxis. Early and quick recognition and treatment can prevent serious health problems or death.”
Eight foods or food groups account for most serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.
The school, obviously with safety as a priority, takes many precautions to ensure students with allergies are accounted for and have multiple emergency resources available if an allergic reaction would occur. Hoover High School nurse Mrs. Brenda Ramey spoke about this.
“If the allergen comes in contact with your immune system, the reaction is your immune system’s response against it,” she said. “If they [students with allergies] have an action plan, some of them can self-carry their preventative medicine to help in case they have an allergic reaction. We also have [preventative medicine] stored in the clinic as a back-up in case if they’re not able to use it.”
The basics of food allergies are simple, any trace of a certain allergen can cause a reaction; however, the severity depends on the individual person and the contact made with the substance.
Hoover junior Tess Rosler has lived her life with multiple food allergies, including peanut, tree nut and egg allergies, yet she has adapted since her many allergies demand food restrictions.
“I just can’t really eat out,” she said. “[Allergies] have a big effect [on life], but I am used to it.”
Many of Rosler’s allergies do prevent her from having certain foods, but since she has gone so long without experiencing and eating them, she said she doesn’t miss it.
“I’ve never desperately wanted to eat peanut butter before,” Rosler said.
Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Mrs. Kelleen Davis discussed the rise of food allergies and the necessity for awareness.
“I think back to when I first started teaching in 1990,” she said. “I don’t think I knew anybody with a peanut allergy.”
In addition to the clinic, precautions are set in place, especially in classes like the Consumer and Family Sciences and Culinary Arts programs, as well as the cafeteria, in order to make sure to avoid common allergies.
“I send a document home at the beginning of the semester to families,” Davis said talking about the precautions within her Foods class. “One of the questions that I ask parents is if their student has a food allergy, and they check yes or no.”
While the goal of this question is to find what foods are safe in the class that year and what students are allergic to in each class, there is another goal — to get students comfortable with clearly stating their allergies and advocating for themselves when asked about their allergies.
“[Students with food allergies] need to not be embarrassed by it and to let their close friends know so they can watch out — and you know they got your back with the other things in life — but especially with your food allergy.”