The Food Allergy Awareness Week aims to promote awareness about food allergies.
Rourkela: Food is necessary for survival but sometimes a bite can do you more harm than good. Rashes, breathing problems, itchiness, burning – these are some of the consequences of eating something one is allergic to.
Food Allergy Awareness Week is observed in May every year to create awareness about food allergies.
Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after an intake of certain food. A small amount of allergy-causing food can trigger reactions that may include digestive issues, difficulty in breathing, etc.
Ashutosh Jena, 22, a polytechnic graduate, loves to eat chicken. However, about three or four years ago, he found out that he had developed an allergy to two of his most favourite non-veg dishes, chicken and eggs. “I develop rashes if I eat chicken or egg. Those rashes burn so much that I have to take showers constantly,” he said.
Eggs, milk, seafood, and fish are believed to be some of the most common foods that cause allergies.
Yukta Roy, 21, a food blogger, said that she used to love eating seafood. One day, when she was eating prawns, her neck started itching and she felt her throat burning. She thought it was a reaction to prawns. But later when she developed the same symptoms after eating crabs, she found that she was allergic to seafood.
Sreeparna Bhattacharjee said when she was eight or nine years old, her mother saw red rashes on her skin after she came home from school. She had eaten banana chips. The doctor told her that she may have an allergy to bananas but not at an extreme level. He advised her to avoid them completely.
Joydeep Dora, 21, is allergic to brinjal/eggplant. He developed this allergy four years ago when he got rashes on his body. His family members, especially his grandmother, believes that he is making excuses for not eating brinjals.
Myths around allergies
Alex Gazzola, author of the book Living with Food Allergies said, “With a population of well over a billion, food allergy could become an enormous problem in India. Some estimates suggest up to three per cent of Indians may already have food allergies, the majority of these under 40 years of age.” He added that around three million Indians may be allergic to peanuts alone.
But most people in India are still insensitive towards food allergies.
Yukta recalled a moment from 2019 when she visited her relative’s place and they served a dish that had prawns in it. She said, “They knew about my allergy. Still, they said I will only gain weight by eating prawns, and allergies are nothing.”
Sreeparna never tells anyone that she is allergic. She just avoids eating banana chips.
Dr. Sucharita Sengupta, Consultant Nutritionist, said allergy to a certain food depends on the immune system of the individuals. “There have been cases when a person is not allergic to a particular food item for the first 20 years of their life, but develop allergies later”
“Food allergies vary from person to person, time to time, food to food, and depend on the genetic composition of the individual,” she added.
About the insensitivity surrounding allergies, Sengupta said, “First of all, people need to understand that allergies exist. People can only understand the condition if they start observing the adverse reactions that people with allergies develop..”
“When a baby reaches six months of age, paediatricians or dieticians suggest parents introduce one food at a time so that they know what their child is allergic to. Food is essential for living but it can also be a little harmful,” Sengupta added.