With the release of the recent study by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the rise of food allergies among children is all over the news. The study shows that now up to 1 in 12 children have some food allergy and among those, 40% of them have had a severe reaction to an allergen. With the many myths and uncertainties about food allergies, Food Republic has gathered 10 facts and myths about childhood food allergies.
Myth: A food allergy is not dangerous.
As seen by the recent study, up to 40% of children with food allergies can have a severe reaction that can lead to a hospital visit or even an early death. Food allergies can, in fact, be fatal and cause a reaction called anaphylaxis which can block airways and prevent the child from breathing. Immediate treatment with epinephrine and auto-injectors can save a child’s life during an extreme allergic reaction.
Fact: Most people with allergies cannot eat even a little of what causes their allergy.
Unlike certain food intolerances — like lactose intolerance, which allows the afflicted to eat small portions of dairy — those with food allergies should avoid any contact with their food allergen to avoid risk of an uncommon and possibly lethal reaction.
Myth: Only certain foods can cause food allergies.
Although only certain foods are most likely to cause allergic reactions, children can actually be allergic to almost any food, including many fruits and vegetables. The foods that are most likely to cause allergies, however, are eggs, milk, peanuts, nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.
Fact: There is no proven test for food allergies.
Testing for food allergies is an inexact science and some children who test negative or positive for certain food allergens can actually be the opposite. There is no universal acceptance for the term “food allergy,” and other diseases may have the same symptoms as some food allergies but may not be diagnosed. All symptoms should be tested, but it may or may not indicate a food allergy.
Myth: Children never outgrow their food allergies.
Many kids, in fact, can outgrow their food allergies, having avoided what causes the allergy completely for two to three years. Although some allergies are more easily beaten, like milk (85% of children can outgrow milk allergies) as compared to peanuts (only 20% of children usually outgrow peanut allergies), outgrowing allergic reactions is still possible.
Fact: It is possible for allergies to develop after adolescence.
Often, food allergy symptoms first show up during childhood, but they can develop at any time after the first exposure to a food. Certain food allergies, like shellfish allergies, are among the most likely to show up for the first time in adults.
Myth: Peanuts are the most common food allergy among children.
Although peanuts can cause the most life-threatening allergic reactions in children, milk is actually the most common food allergen.
Fact: Western children are more susceptible to food allergies.
Studies have shown that the diets of Western children have pre-disposed them to have more allergic reactions to certain foods. A study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the stomach bacteria from 15 children in Italy with the bacteria in 14 children in Burkina Faso. They found a decrease in richness of the bacteria of Western children that may, in fact, have something to do with the rise in food allergies in Western cultures.
Myth: Any reaction you have after eating a food is an allergy.
Food allergies do occur in up to 8% of children, but many parents think that their children have adverse reactions to food that may in fact not be allergic reactions. Instead, many kids may be lactose intolerant, have a food aversion, or other symptoms that have nothing to do with allergies, such as hyperactivity and gas.
Fact: Early exposure to certain food may reduce allergies to those foods.
Studies have shown that earlier exposure to certain foods like peanuts can prevent future allergies. A 2008 study by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology compared food allergies among Jewish children living in the United Kingdom to those living in Israel, with peanut allergies occurring more frequently in the children living in the U.K. One main reason was that fact that 69% of the Israeli children were fed peanuts by nine months of age as compared to only 10% of U.K. children.