DEAR ABBY: I am a 25-year-old woman with a food allergy. Last year I was a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner where the host insisted I could eat the food "since there was just a little in there."
I understand that making separate food is difficult, but all I ask is that people let me know if a dish contains an ingredient that will make me sick. At best, an allergic reaction is uncomfortable. At worst, it can be life-threatening.
Would you please print a message about allergy awareness before the holidays? If you do, perhaps someone will be spared what I went through. -- NOT PICKY, REALLY ALLERGIC IN ILLINOIS
DEAR REALLY ALLERGIC: I'm glad to raise awareness because every year there is at least one story in the media about some poor individual winding up in an emergency room or dying because of an allergic reaction. Exposure to even a trace of a substance that an individual is allergic to is dangerous because "just a little" can hurt you.
The symptoms of a potentially fatal allergic reaction -- which have appeared in this column before -- are a tingling sensation, itching or metallic taste in the mouth followed by hives, a sensation of warmth, asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth and throat area, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. The symptoms can occur in as few as five to 15 minutes after exposure, but life-threatening reactions may progress over several hours. Someone experiencing these symptoms should be treated at the nearest emergency room or hospital.
This information was provided by Food Allergy Research and Education, an organization whose mission is to raise public awareness about food allergies, provide education and advance research. Its website is loaded with valuable information on this important subject. Check it out at www.foodallergy.org.