Last week in Georgia, two young men lost their lives in untimely, tragic, and ultimately, preventable ways. Both of the men died after suffering from an allergic reaction, their deaths underscoring both the seriousness of food allergies and the need for those with allergies to have a treatment plan in place.

Both Jharrel Dillard, 15, and Tyler Davis, 20, knew that they had a severe food allergy, and checked everything they ate with vigilance. Both of the men unknowingly ate food containing their allergen. Neither carried an epinephrine autoinjector (often referred to as an Epi-Pen), and without this life-saving treatment, they suffered an allergic reaction and died.

The vast majority of people with diagnosed food allergies have suffered at least one allergic reaction. Though most people are able to recover with prompt medical treatment, the deaths of Jharrel and Tyler bring home the very serious reality that those with severe food allergies are at risk of dying from their condition.

Despite the fact that the effects of food allergies can be serious and tragic, many people with allergies do not carry a life-saving Epi-Pen with them at all times, nor do they have a plan in place for what they should do if they believe they are experiencing an allergic reaction. According to the According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, up to 200 Americans die each year from anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction, while another 300,000 visit a hospital or doctor’s office for treatment of a reaction.

If you think you have a food allergy, the first step is to visit your doctor and determine what food you are allergic to. If it turns out that you do have a severe food allergy, create an emergency allergy action plan that includes carrying emergency medication, particularly an epinephrine auto-injector, with you at all times. It is also important to create a support network of friends, family members, and colleagues who know that you have a food allergy and know how to assist in an allergy emergency.

Read more about these unfortunate deaths, which highlight the severity of food allergies, here: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/26/deaths-are-a-reminder-of-food-a…

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