Food Allergy

Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are invariably complex and can be severe. Correct and timely medical diagnosis is essential.

The prevalence of food allergy in Australia has increased dramatically in recent years. Around 5% of children and 2% of adults will suffer from a food allergy. Around 3% of children will be allergic to peanuts and around 4% allergic to tree nuts—double the rates five years ago.

There are more than 170 foods known to cause allergic reactions. Common foods that trigger reaction include, but are not limited to, cow’s milk (dairy), eggs (hen’s), peanuts (legumes), tree nuts, seafood (fish & shellfish), wheat (grains), soy, sesame (seeds), fruit & vegetables.

Some food allergies pass over time; some stay for life; some reactions become more severe with each exposure.  Severe food allergies can be fatal and thorough management plan is vital.

Hospitalisation for food anaphylaxis—a severe and potentially life threatening allergic reaction—has doubled over the past decade, and increased fivefold in young children.

Food intolerances, sensitivities and other adverse reactions are not technically allergies. Though the symptoms may be similar, the causes, our bodies’ reactions and the health implications are different.

Symptoms

Some common reactions can include:

  • hives
  • swollen eyes, lips, tongue and throat (angioedema)
  • stomach pain, vomiting & diarrhoea
  • runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • hoarse voice
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • lethargy
  • generalised flushing of the skin
  • sudden weakness, collapse & unconsciousness
  • anaphylaxis

Treatment

Once the food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity has been correctly identified, the condition can be effectively managed and treated in a number of ways:

  • managing/avoiding allergic triggers
  • elimination diet
  • antihistamines
  • corticosteroids
  • immunotherapy
  • hypoallergenic infant formula
  • anaphylaxis action plan
  • adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen)

In the case of food allergy, incorrect diagnosis and treatment can have serious consequences.

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