Science Fair Ideas for Food Allergies

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About 3.3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
About 3.3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

More than 12 million Americans---3 million of whom are children---are allergic to some type of food, according to the Food Allergy Awareness Network. With one child in every 25 affected and families who must adapt, the topic of food allergies will attract a great deal of interest and attention at your science fair.

  1. Find the Hidden Allergen

    • Many of the most common food allergens hide in everyday foods, making it hard to avoid them. Some people are so highly allergic that they can have a severe reaction if they simply touch an allergen or breathe the steam in which the food is cooked. Research a specific food allergen or several of the more common ones. Put together a display of pictures or items that show unexpected triggers like a plate of vegetables (stir-fried in peanut oil), a friend's hand (after he eats a peanut butter sandwich) or ice cream (made with soy-based lecithin). Combine the pictures with foods that are obvious triggers and those that are "safe." Put a "Mr. Yuk" poison symbol under each of the dangerous foods and cover the symbol with a paper flap. Encourage classmates to guess which items could trigger an allergic reaction, then lift the flap to find out if they were right.

    Label Literacy

    • Eight foods account for most food allergies, according to the Mayo Clinic. The FDA requires food companies to list ingredients made with these eight foods so people who are allergic can avoid them. Write a report about the importance of food labels for people with food allergies. Collect labels from foods that display a warning about allergens and circle the warning, then highlight the ingredients in the listing that contain the allergen. Keep your eye out for warnings in other places as well. Look for alerts on restaurant menus or signs in restaurants that warn people about foods that contain one or more of the most common food allergens. Take photos of them and include them in your display.

    Anaphylaxis

    • Your body's immune system reacts to an allergen with a range of symptoms. The most serious of those reactions is anaphylaxis, a reaction that causes 125 food allergy deaths each year, state the makers of the EpiPen. Write a short paper that describes anaphylaxis and explain its relationship to the immune system. Use a diagram to illustrate different body systems and how they may react to the presence of an allergen, or create a poster showing the steps to take if someone shows signs of anaphylaxis. If you have access to a video camera, create a public service announcement to teach bystanders what to do when someone suffers a severe allergic reaction.

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  • Photo Credit opened peanut image by Alex White from Fotolia.com

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