Holiday Treats = Trips to the ER

By Omar Villafranca
|  Thursday, Dec 30, 2010  |  Updated 12:38 AM CDT
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200,000 people a year go to the hospital for food allergies, and one doctor says cases spike during the holidays.

Omar Villafranca, NBCDFW.com

200,000 people a year go to the hospital for food allergies, and one doctor says cases spike during the holidays.

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Your holiday work party could send you to the hospital.

Doctor Martha Grimm with Texas Health Plano said she sees several patients a week in the hospital ER with allergic reactions to holiday food.

"This time of year, it's probably the baked goods, and all the parties. You don't know what exactly what you're eating at the parties," said Dr. Grimm.

People who suffer from food allergies know to read warning labels on packaged food. But the fruitcakes and gingerbread men made by your co-worker or grandma don't have labels.

"So let's say Grandma says there's no nuts in there but she made brownies with nuts the same day, in the same area, it can cross over, " Dr. Grimm said.

Shelly Garrison knows what it's like to eat something at a party and end up in the ER. The Richardson woman said it happened to her a few years ago.

"The last reaction I had it was during the holidays. Someone had a big, what do they call it? 'Texas trash,' with the Chex mix. And they had removed the peanuts, but it had been cooked with peanuts," Garrison said.

Garrison said her face swelled up and she had trouble breathing. She now keeps antihistamines and an EpiPen nearby just in case.

A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that between 2001 and 2005, more than a million Americans went to the ER for food allergies. Dr. Grimm said she's noticed the numbers have gone up in her ER over the last few years.

"Why? We don't know. Is it environmental? Is it more genetic? We don't really know," Dr. Grimm said.

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