Food Allergy and Intolerance

Food Allergy and Intolerance

Infants are particularly vulnerable to the development of food allergies probably because of the immaturity of their digestive tract and immune system.

Food Allergy is an abnormal response by the immune system when something in food (usually protein) is introduced. The substance causing the adverse reaction is called the allergen.

A reaction occurs within minutes or up to a few hours after the food is eaten and may lead to a range of symptoms from mild to life threatening. Even traces of the allergen may cause reactions.

Common allergy reactions or symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Eczema, hives, reddening, flushing of the skin
  • Swelling around the mouth, eyes and face
  • Wheezing, difficulty breathing, stuffy nose,hayfever symptoms
  • Anaphylaxis – a potentially life threatening reaction involving the whole body

People with a family history of allergies are more likely to develop food and other allergies. The chance of infants developing an allergy depends on their family history and environmental factors.

Most common food allergens are – milk, egg, nuts (especially peanuts), soy, wheat and fish.

If you suspect your infant or child has a food allergy it is important to have this correctly diagnosed by a medical specialist – Paediatrician or Immunologist.

Investigation of food allergies can be quite involved and it is important not to unnecessarily restrict foods as this can adversely affect nutrition and growth.

The two medically and scientifically proven allergy tests are the skin prick test and the blood test (CAP RAST test). Other tests for allergies (e.g. hair analyses) are, to date, scientifically unproven and cannot be relied upon for diagnosis.

Once diagnosis of a food allergy has been made, the key to management is total avoidance of the food. Total avoidance offers young children their best chance of outgrowing their food allergy.

Most children will outgrow their allergies to cows’ milk, soy, wheat and egg. Only about 20% will outgrow their reactions to peanut, tree nuts and fish.

Food intolerances may sometimes be mistaken for food allergies. An allergy involves the immune system where as intolerance does not.

Food intolerance is dose related. A reaction may not always occur with each exposure to the food or food additive. Reactions may be immediate or delayed by up to 20 hours, making diagnosis difficult.

Symptoms can mirror those of food allergy (e.g. hives, eczema), but can also be more general (headaches, bloating, diarrhoea, wind, behavioural problems), making diagnosis again more difficult. Substances which can cause intolerances include lactose (milk sugar), amines, salicylates or glutamine.

For further support and information:
Allergy Awareness Association, Manufactured Food Database (MFD)

About Eleanor Harris

Hi, there. It's my blog about nutritional solutions. I post the most helpful content in this topic ❤️ I got master degree 4 years ago at University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Now i work for Danone as Nutrition Executive

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