keep-calm-and-carry-an-epipenIf you’ve read my Dani Spevak Mystery Series, then you know that Dani has a dangerous peanut allergy. The correct term is anaphylaxis, which is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. When anaphylaxis presents, the primary treatment is injection of emergency epinephrine, such as with an Epi Pen or Auvi-Q.

Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), this potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children under the age of 18. That’s roughly two in every classroom.

Although the word “allergy” makes people think of stuffy noses, a food allergy is actually an immune response — you body mistakes something in food as harmful and attacks it. It can affect your entire body, not just your stomach or sinuses. Symptons may include:

  • Rash, hives or itchy skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure, trouble swallowing, or breathing (CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY)

The most famous food allergy is peanut allergy, but the Big 8 allergens that the FDA requires food manufacturers to list on labels also include tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat. These eight foods account for an estimated 90% of all allergic reactions.

Dani can’t eat peanuts. My own daughter can’t eat tree nuts, eggs, sesame seeds, or raw mango. My son doesn’t have any food allergies, but he has milk protein intolerance and rice intolerance (rather than an immune response, his body can’t properly digest the protein, causing cramps, bloating, pain, and difficulty in growth/gaining weight).

But just because they can’t eat these foods doesn’t mean they can’t have a varied and interesting diet. To prove that allergen-free food can be delicious, I’ve included some of my favorite recipes. Each recipe in my list is free of the “Big 8″ allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, soy, or wheat). Of course, if you don’t have those particular allergies, or have different allergies, you may need to make substitutions.

If commercially-prepared foods are more your speed, has a “Safe Snack Guide,” and AllergyEats maintains a peer-reviewed directory that rates how well restaurants accomodate folks who need special diets.

Enjoy, and eat safely!


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