Food Allergy Awareness Effort Launched By Patricia Blagojevich

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To kick off Food Allergy Awareness week, First Lady Patricia Blagojevich today launched "Ask Before You Eat," a statewide education campaign designed to prevent unintentional and potentially-life threatening harm to children with food allergies. Nationwide, some 3 million children suffer from food allergies, including 1 out of 17 children under 3 years of age. Food allergy reactions in children can range from mild symptoms such as skin rashes to anaphylaxis, a sudden and severe response that can end in death.

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"We're stepping forward to help parents protect children from a danger we cannot ignore," said Mrs. Blagojevich. "Allergies shouldn't prevent kids from enjoying food at school or in restaurants. With better awareness about the risks of food allergies, we can help kids with food allergies stay safe at school and at their favorite restaurant. As a parent of a food allergic child, I understand the difficulty of safeguarding children that simply wants to have the same food and fun as their friends. Working together, we can protect our sons and daughters health and prevent the tragedies of severe reactions."

The initiative was announced today at Children's Memorial Hospital, where a study is underway to better understand the genetic and environmental influences on the recent increases in food allergies. Out of 3,600 pediatric outpatient allergy visits to the hospital in fiscal year 2007, 39% were due to food allergies. "Food allergy is a growing problem that affects kids, their families and the community, particularly schools," said Jacqueline Pongracic, M.D., head of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children's Memorial. "We need to increase awareness and devote more resources toward food allergy research to understand its causes in order to develop better strategies for prevention and treatment."

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