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What food allergy sufferers don’t know could kill them

Dear Abby: I am a 25-year-old woman with a food allergy. Last year I was a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner where the host insisted I could eat the food "since there was just a little in there."

I understand that making separate food is difficult, but all I ask is that people let me know if a dish contains an ingredient that will make me sick. At best, an allergic reaction is uncomfortable. At worst, it can be life-threatening.

Would you please print a message about allergy awareness before the holidays? If you do, perhaps someone will be spared what I went through. – Not Picky, Really Allergic in Illinois

Dear Really Allergic: I'm glad to raise awareness because every year there is at least one story in the media about some poor individual winding up in an emergency room or dying because of an allergic reaction. Exposure to even a TRACE of a substance that an individual is allergic to is dangerous because "just a little" CAN hurt you.

The symptoms of a potentially fatal allergic reaction – which have appeared in this column before – are a tingling sensation, itching or metallic taste in the mouth followed by hives, a sensation of warmth, asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth and throat area, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. The symptoms can occur in as few as five to 15 minutes after exposure, but life-threatening reactions may progress over several hours. Someone experiencing these symptoms should be treated at the nearest emergency room or hospital.

This information was provided by Food Allergy Research and Education, an organization whose mission is to raise public awareness about food allergies, provide education and advance research. Its website is loaded with valuable information on this important subject. Check it out at www.foodallergy.org.

Dear Abby: Last week I attended two events for my grandchildren. One was a school concert, the other a dance recital. Both times, during the performance I saw electronic devices turned on throughout the audience. It seemed that parents were encouraging children to play video games, watch movies or surf the Internet instead of pay attention to the show. It drove me crazy.

What are these parents teaching their children? Not only are they missing out on the experience, but they are also being taught terrible manners. I held my tongue, but it was a struggle because I wanted to slap the parents in the back of the head. (I'm old school.) Am I wrong? – Holding My Tongue

Dear Holding: No, you're 100 percent right. Before many performances, the director or principal will request that electronic devices be turned off. That's what should have been done at the concert and recital you attended. Parents who allow or encourage their children to behave this way aren't doing their job, which is to teach them to be respectful of the performers and the effort that was put into the show.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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