Editor's note: Mireille Schwartz is the founder and executive director of the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board, an organization that promotes education and awareness. It also provides no-cost medical care and medication to families with severely allergic children. She is the author of "The Family Food Allergy Book."
No doubt your children are ecstatic that summer's here - and you'll be just as excited when you can send them off to camp, right? Follow these safety tips to ensure food allergies don't get in the way of all the fun:
More than 12 million Americans - including 1 in 13 children - suffer from food allergies.
A food allergy occurs when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein, triggering the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine.
Symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives and itching), but they can also escalate quickly to severe: difficulty breathing, wheezing, a drop in blood pressure, even loss of consciousness.
It's important to understand that a food allergy can be potentially fatal; even trace amounts of the offending food can trigger these reactions. There are also unexpected sources of "hidden" allergens in soups and marinades, lurking in fryer vats and garnishes.
Cross-contamination can occur when one food comes into contact with another food and their proteins mix on, for example, the same cutting board or on the same serving utensil. As a result, the two foods blend in amounts so small they can't be seen. That's why a camp's dining room or mess hall requires extra vigilance.