Diner in hospital after being served shellfish: the importance of allergy awareness

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All of us need to be more aware and mindful of the severity of allergies so that unwanted incidences like this do not happen again.

Let's admit it – many of us lack the knowledge to distinguish between food allergy myths and facts. In truth, many of us think lightly of allergies and are unaware of the seriousness of the matter – unless, of course, you or your kids suffer from allergies yourselves.

Due to this general ignorance, some F&B establishments have gotten into trouble due to the lack of awareness by their frontline staff. 

Recently, Facebook user Huijin Jinnie ended up in the hospital after she was served shellfish despite informing the staff at a restaurant in Jurong Point of her allergy.

In her post, she wrote that she specifically informed the restaurant's staff that she was allergic to seafood, and requested that they omit it in her order. She even doubled checked with a waiter when the food was served, and she was told that there was no seafood in the dish. But after taking a few mouthfuls, allergy symptoms started to show almost right away.

Feeling uneasy, Huijin examined her food and found shreds of what looked like dried scallops. When she asked again the waiter insisted that it was just shredded egg.

With her skin starting to itch and her eyes swelling, finally, the fourth waiter came back to tell her, “A little bit inside only.”

One of the most common food allergy myths is thinking that symptoms are usually just a minor rash and itch. In actual fact, symptoms can vary in severity.

By then Huijin's heart was already racing, and she was unable to reply the waiter. Huijin was sent to the nearest GP by her mother before before being admitted into Ng Teng Fong Hospital. She was put on a drip and given an injection for her allergy.

Since the incident, the restaurant involved has issued an apology and offered support until she makes a full recovery. 

What if this happened to a child with a more fragile system than an adult? The outcome could have been even more serious than this lady's. This is why it's so important for more general awareness to be created about the danger of allergies. Separating myth from fact is just as crucial. 

8 Important Food Allergy Myths and Facts for Parents

food allergy myths

Food Allergy Myths:

  1. You can outgrow allergies. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, while you might outgrow allergies caused by milk, egg, wheat and soy, allergies due to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are generally lifelong. Children can still be allergic beyond age five. Outgrowing allergies is one of the more common food allergy myths.

  2. No childhood allergies mean no allergies for life. Allergies often start when you're a kid. But WebMD says you can get them as an adult, too. This can happen after a change of environment or even when you encounter new allergens. Contrary to what food allergy myths say, some symptoms of allergy can show up again when you’re all grown-up.

  3. Hyperactivity is a common food allergy symptom. According to Everyday Health, the answer is NO. The most common food allergy symptom is hives, and they usually develop within two hours after eating. Other common symptoms of food allergy include tingling in the mouth, tightness in the throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing, and trouble breathing.

  4. Food allergies are safer than other allergies. In fact, food allergies can be equally fatal if a person has an anaphylactic reaction and suffocates. Everyday Health found that anaphylactic food reactions cause between 30,000 and 125,000 emergency room visits every year.

food allergy myths

Food Allergy Facts:

  1. You should always read the labels. To avoid allergies, you need to eliminate food you are allergic to and this is not as easy as it sounds. Some kinds of food are obvious, but others require careful reading of the ingredient list on the package.
  2. You have a greater chance of being allergic to other foods. For instance, if you have a history of allergic reactions to prawns, you’re likely to be allergic to crab, lobster, and crayfish as well. Doctors call this cross-reactivity.

  3. Food allergy symptoms may vary. One child might get a rash, while another might need to make a quick trip to the nearest emergency room. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and surface within minutes of eating an allergenic food. Severe cases can result in anaphylaxis and death. It is better to be safe than sorry.

  4. Allergy shots might help. But it is not a cure. There is no cure for allergies, and there is no telling if and when you will ever outgrow them. However, it can help to cut back on some of the reactions to certain allergens according to WebMD.

Why Should Everyone Be Aware of Food Allergy Myths?

This is so that everyone can distinguish between what is safe and what is not.

In her post, Huijin pointed out that the restaurant was lucky that she only ended up in the hospital. There are people who can die from full-blown anaphylaxis with collapse due to severe reactions. People need to be more aware of the dangers of allergies because one careless mistake can be life-threatening.

Whether you are a parent or not, it is important to be aware that allergies are common in children. Someday you might have a visiting child who has allergies. By busting food allergy myths and arming ourselves with the right knowledge, everyone will be more prepared when having little guests over. Not only will they check first before making food choices, but they will also be more prepared to deal with emergencies, should anything happen.

 

Sources: Huijin JinnieReader's Digest, WebMD, Dr Sears

READ ALSO: Toddler has severe peanut allergy on Singapore Airlines flight WITHOUT eating peanuts!