ALBANY, N.Y. -- More than 15 million Americans are affected by food allergies, some of which can be life-threatening.
For some, just one bite of food can be deadly.
As parents get ready to send their kids back to school in a few weeks, parents of children with food allergies have a whole other set of preparations to make before their child even gets on the bus.
Whether your child has food allergies or not, you are still affected by this growing problem.
On one side, you're navigating the world of EpiPens and dietary restrictions.
On the other side, every parent must know what kinds of foods and treats are acceptable to bring into the classroom.
Epi-Pens, medical alerts bracelets, safe food checklists, it's all apart of the repertoire of a family with a child with food allergies.
Dr. Scott Osur, a certified allergy and asthma consultant, says the number of those families is growing.
"Maybe I would see a new peanut allergy every week or two and honestly, now it's every day I see a new one."
Dr. Osur has focused on food allergies for almost three decades. Many of his patients are life-long patients, like nine year old Zach Fruiterman.
Zach was first diagnosed with food allergies when he was 12 months old, after eating a jar of baby food.
His allergies now include milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts and mustard.
"When you have so many foods that you are truly allergic to, it can be a little bit of a daunting task," says Dr. Osur. "That's why education is so important."
Dr. Osur points out the education extends way beyond a family.
When Zach heads to his first day of fourth grade in a few weeks, his classmates will receive a "safe snacks" list and his teacher and school nurse will be equipped with a safety plan specifically geared to his needs.
"The cafeteria has an action plan," says Judy Devaney, Zach's school nurse. "Every special area where Zach goes or when he comes into contact with anybody, they know exactly what to do in the event of an exposure."
Devaney says part of her job is making sure everyone knows how to identify an allergic reaction and make other parents aware of why it is so important to keep certain foods out of the school completely.
Zach's mother, Cheryl Fruiterman says their life changed when he was diagnosed with food allergies at 12 months old, and then again when he entered kindergarten.
"Kids are worried about what they're going to wear, who's going to be in my class, but to me that was nothing." says Fruiterman.
Dr. Osur says there are trials going on right now to try and find a cure for food allergies, but it could be years
"I think there definitely is hope, but right now, you still have to do what Zach and his family are doing," he says. "Be careful and have your emergency medicine around and be very knowledgeable."
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