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Death--salted or unsalted

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Date published: 4/21/2002

thing? I don't just mean
flowers that give you sniffles or in-laws that give you hives. I mean foods or bee stings--allergens that could kill you.

Maybe you are and don't even know it. Maybe you ate some clams and then had a runny nose, but never linked the two and thought nothing more of it.

Could be that the next time you eat clams a reaction could be much more serious, or even deadly.

Since our daughter, Megan, was diagnosed with a variety of food allergies before she turned a year old, we've learned a great deal about such conditions. Chief among them:

1. More people than you might think suffer from food allergies.

2. Most people don't understand food allergies, which is at once understandable and extremely frustrating.

It wasn't until I became aware that foods (and other things) can cause severe allergic reactions that I learned the term "anaphylaxis."
If you have a child with a peanut allergy, for example, the word can send chills up your spine.

Anaphylaxis is what can happen when a person accidentally or unknowingly ingests a food or protein to which he or she is allergic. The throat swells and causes the person to suffocate. It's the most serious of a variety of manifestations that can occur.

Thanks to organizations such as the Food Allergy Network, headquartered in Fairfax, food-allergy awareness is improving. To help draw greater attention, May 5-11 has been set aside as Food Allergy Awareness Week.

Awareness is key, especially for child-care providers and school officials. The threat of a reaction lurks everywhere, in every piece of candy, in every cookie, in every cupcake. For children who don't understand that some things have to be off limits, adult awareness is crucial.

I never used to read food-label ingredient lists. Now I do so routinely. Pick any package of processed food and you'll swear you got the Greek version of the ingredient list. What are those things? Is there something hiding in there that Megan shouldn't have? Notice too that certain candies now have a peanut warning on them despite having nothing to do with peanuts. Call it laziness--for failing to clean machinery between batches--and the candy industry's way of covering its own posterior.

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