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Putting the brakes on food allergies could do a body good

This photo contains at least three food allergens. Can you find them? (Photo: bensonkua/Flickr)

About 3 million children in the U.S. have some form of food allergy, ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening. The number of children diagnosed with food allergies is rising: at Children’s alone, the percentage of new patients with food allergies jumped from 14 in 1998 to 46 in 2005.

The numbers don’t really describe what it means for a child to have an allergy to milk or other foods. At age 1, Brett Nasuti was diagnosed with allergies to 15 foods, including milk, nuts, and eggs. “When I was little, I got hives in the shape of my mom’s lips when she kissed me after drinking coffee with just a little milk in it,” he says.

The classic way of addressing a food allergy is through a vigilant avoidance of the food(s) that can trigger an anaphylactic reaction and prompt treatment of reactions when they do occur. That approach got a boost last year from the Massachusetts legislature, which passed a law requiring restaurants to educate their workers and managers about food allergies and print warnings in their menus reminding diners to tell their server about any food allergies in their party.

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