Emmy Award-winning actress Julie Bowen , whose 6-year-old son, Oliver, has severe allergies to peanuts and bee stings, is the spokesperson for the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis campaign.
"We're trying to get the word out to everybody — you don't have to have kids — just know the signs and symptoms and have a plan to deal with anaphylaxis, should it arise," Julie says.
Julie recently narrated an e-book, The Adventures of Ana and Phyl Axis: The Carnival to help educate children about making social events friendly for those with food allergies.
One in 20 children in the U.S. has some kind of food allergy, which is a 50 percent increase in a little more than a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is shocking to me how much these are on the rise in kids,” ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says.
The Doctors and Julie discuss theories for why food allergies in children have increased so significantly.
Theories for the increase include:
• Too much hygiene: Exposure to germs and parasites in early childhood could teach the immune system not to overreact and could prevent children from developing certain allergies.
• High levels of chemical exposure in the air, water and the environment.
• Evolution in how foods are grown and produced, such as the use of antibiotics.
• Outdated advice: New studies suggest that parents should introduce their children to highly allergenic foods, such as peanuts, milk, shellfish and soy, as early as when they are four to six months old. If they aren't exposed to the foods early enough, their bodies are more likely to view them as foreign invaders and attack, leading to allergies.
Symptoms of allergic reactions include hives, tingling in the mouth, swelling in the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, eczema or rash, coughing or wheezing, dizziness, shock with a severe drop in blood pressure and an irregular pulse.
Dr. Travis explains that during a severe anaphylaxis reaction, the mouth, tongue and lips can swell within minutes of exposure. The swelling dilates blood vessels, causing the blood pressure to drop.