A May 2015 survey finds that 49 percent of Americans have either no knowledge or only limited knowledge of food allergies.
Of the 1,031 adults surveyed, there was awareness – about the lack of food allergy awareness. Sixty-eight percent of those questioned said the average American would not know what to do if someone they were with began having an food-allergic reaction.
The survey, released at the start of Food Allergy Awareness Month and conducted for the educational organization Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) and the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (ACAAI), also indicates the general public lacks understanding of the difference between a food allergy and an intolerance.
Thirty-one percent of those surveyed believed that “level of severity” was was the only difference between a food allergy and an intolerance.
Meantime, a new survey from Canada makes similar findings. In that study, conducted by the Ipsos-Reid polling firm, 63 percent of Canadians said they wouldn’t know exactly what to do if a person sitting next to them at a restaurant began having symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (including swollen lips, wheezing and collapsing to the floor).
Only half participating in the Canadian survey felt they would recognize the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. Fifty-one percent were not familiar with epinephrine auto-injectors and answered that they would not know how to use one.
Dr. Todd Mahr, a Wisconsin-based allergist and fellow of the ACAAI, says he commonly encounters patients who don’t have the correct information about food allergies. “Many people aren’t taking the steps we recommend to keep themselves or their loved ones safe,” he said, noting that he also sees those who assume they have allergies and needlessly change their diets.
This level of confusion has prompted FAACT and the ACAAI to launch a campaign to help raise awareness of accurate food allergy diagnosis and effective management. (Visit livingwithfoodallergies.org to learn more.)
The Canadian survey is part of an education initiative undertaken by the distributors of the Allerject auto-injector. The Awareness Month campaign also involves youth representatives doing media interviews across Canada about the symptoms of anaphylaxis and the emergency steps to take in a severe reaction.