Special Report: Local teen hoping to spread awareness on severity of food allergies

Special Report: Local teen hoping to spread awareness on severity of food allergies

(CBS 58) -- It's estimated that 32 million Americans have food allergies, and a new study shows that in Wisconsin the number of food allergy medical claims is on the rise.

A study done by the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) shows a 75% increase in the number of diagnoses of anaphylactic food reactions and history of food allergy claims between 2009 and 2016. 

"We also know that with how common food allergies can be in the typical classroom, it's probably two kids per classroom," said Dr. Asriani Chiu, Allergist with Medical College of Wisconsin.

It's something 18-year-old Matthew Trotier has battled his young life. 

"I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish," Matthew said.

No matter where Matthew Trotier goes, he brings a bag containing his AUVI-Q which contains one dose of epinephrine. It's a prescription medication that treats life-threatening allergic reactions.

"The struggle with food allergies is what may be benign and should be enjoyable is like a weapon, it's like a weapon to someone with food allergies," said Anna Trotier, Matthew's mom.

Top food allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, finfish, shellfish, wheat, soy, eggs, and milk.

Symptoms can be mild with hives or itching, but can also be deadly.

"It needs to be taken seriously and if someone says they have a food allergy or food sensitivity we really should have the avoidance of those particular products and not try to force the person to eat it," said Dr. Chiu. 

Matthew's mission to spread awareness started in fifth grade when he wrote a letter to the Brewers. 

"We had gone to Brewers games and every single time we'd come back home because of an allergic reaction," said Matthew. 

From Matthew's letter, Brewers said they'd have peanut-free games. This season, the Brewers will have four home games with dedicated peanut-free sections. 

So, what can you do? You don't have to give up your favorite foods.

"All we want is to bring awareness and we want understanding and sensitivity," said Anna. 

It can be simple like asking if someone has a food allergy and making appropriate accommodations. 

"Just be mindful, not everyone has a food allergy. I think just being aware and not to take it personally they want to be safe," said Dr. Chiu.

Matthew started a food allergy and awareness club at his high school and is even talking with lawmakers hoping to draft a food allergy bill for restaurants and hospitality services.

States like Illinois and Massachusetts have a law already in place.

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