FOOD ALLERGIES – WHEN FOOD SPELLS DANGER
Are there more allergic reactions now than there were years ago?
The most up to date research shows a massive increase in the prevalence of allergic disorders, including food allergies, in children.
Why a growing number of children should be allergic to an everyday food like peanuts and, to a lesser extent, to foods such as eggs, tree nuts, sesame, dairy, fish, crustaceans and soy, is uncertain, although medical experts theorise the use of peanuts in many Western-style processed foods may be a factor.
Researchers also point the finger at environmental factors, including our obsession with cleanliness have also contributed, with reduced exposure to germs causing some children’s immune systems to react to otherwise harmless antigens, says Cape Byron’s paediatric dietitian Anna Millichamp.
Can allergic reactions be genetic?
Finally, genetics can also play a role – children born to allergy-prone parents are more susceptible to the condition, she says.
Whatever the cause, Anna says a common-sense approach to nutrition can help parents feel less anxious about their children’s dietary problems.
Even if the challenge is breastfeeding an allergic baby, she can supply mothers with information and advice.
“With more children showing up with allergies, this is an issue that many parents have to manage,” says Anna. “With the right help they can do so effectively, reducing impacts to their children’s health, as well as their own anxiety.”
What is food allergy?
This is when your immune system reacts to proteins in foods and it can be life threatening. A food intolerance, on the other hand, is unpleasant but has less serious immediate consequences.
What are the symptoms and triggers of food allergies?
If you eat a food you are allergic to you may get hives, swelling, vomiting, or trouble breathing. In extreme instances, you go into anaphylactic shock and will need emergency treatment. Food intolerances may cause symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea of tiredness. Some research links food intolerances to irritable bowel syndrome.
What are the most common foods people are allergic to?
Peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat, shellfish, soy, sesame and tree nuts are responsible for most allergic reactions.
For food intolerances, dairy products, chocolate, eggs, MSG, additives, strawberries, citrus fruit, tomatoes, red wine and amines are the most common causes.
How are food allergies detected?
Unfortunately there is no test for food allergies yet. You’ll have to do a bit of detective work by watching out for symptoms and by doing an elimination diet under the supervision of a GP or dietitian. Food allergies are detected through skin prick tests or blood (RAST) tests.
How are food allergies treated?
If you have a food allergy, it is imperative you avoid the food you’re allergic to.
Food intolerance is also best treated with avoidance of certain foods. After eliminating problem foods, it may later be possible to introduce a little back into the diet, slowly, without any reaction.
Can I pass on an allergy through breastfeeding?
If you or anyone in your family has an allergy, breastfeeding exclusively for six months is recommended.
Dietitians advise introducing foods such as milk, soy, eggs, wheat, nuts or fish as soon as possible once your baby is on solids and continuing to breastfeed as these new foods are added in. For more help, you should see our dietitian.
Can children grow out of an allergy?
The good news is that up to 80 per cent of children outgrow an allergy to milk or eggs and, by the time they are a teenager, about 20 per cent will outgrow an allergy to peanuts. Unfortunately only about five per cent outgrow an allergy to seafood.