When an allergic reaction is fatal it is called anaphylaxis. There is no cure for food allergies. The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid consumption of, or coming into contact with, the allergen. There are particular foods that are at the heart of food allergies. These eight foods account for 90% of all food allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish (FAAN, 2008). In particular her thesis focused on environments where there is no choice for an allergy sufferer to eat that there would be a need for a system of indicators.
I had an “aha moment” during her thesis. In a moment of clarity, it occurred to her that the hospital uses visual indicators throughout the hospital.
Whether in the form of a biohazard sign or a wheel chair parking sign, these were all icons that relayed immediate information to the viewer. This idea of using a visual language could be translated into the everyday life of an allergy sufferer was an essential part of the system.
Why you should care?
A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic indicates that, between 1999 and 2008, the number of cases of anaphylaxis has doubled. Statistics also show that allergies of all types are on the rise with food and drug reactions leading the way. Furthermore, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reports that approximately 4% of adults in the U.S. have a food allergy, many of whom did not have the allergic reaction as children (Woman’s Day, n.d.). This fact is an indicator that adult food onset allergies can happen to anyone, at any time. Moreover, if any of these allergy suffers are in the hospital, a safe environment needs to be provided