About food allergy
Food allergy occurs in around 1 in 20 children and in about 1 in 100 adults. Food allergy is an immune response. The symptoms include wheezing, stomach upsets and skin rashes. It may be difficult enough when at home to avoid foods to which an allergic reaction occurs. When dining out, avoiding food allergies requires careful scrutiny of the menu. Even then, an interview with the server may be necessary, expecting that they know what’s what. Lives at risk of severe reaction to food allergies may be in their hands.
A food allergy is a mild to violent reaction expressed by consumption of certain kinds of foods. These foods are typically cow’s milk, wheat (gluten), soy, nuts, eggs, and fish or shellfish. The allergic reaction is the immune system’s response to the proteins in these foods and it usually expresses shortly after consumption. The reaction may be as mild as a runny nose or itching skin to diarrhea or vomiting to anaphylaxis, a rapid and severe condition that could lead to death.
Food allergies may mean that eating out is not going to be a frequent activity just to be certain that reactive foods are avoided. This is difficult if the ingredients in an ordered dish are not known. Most restaurants purchase their food in bulk. If the food is fresh, the ingredients list is short and easily identified. If they are processed foods, the server may not know what is in them. The chef may need to be consulted and must be trusted that he knows.
Some food allergies expressed in children may disappear naturally without ongoing medical treatment as the child matures, but there are no guarantees. This tends to be the case with childhood reaction to wheat, soy, eggs and milk. Reaction to other foods, however, like fish and nuts, may endure for life. The only sure treatment for food allergies is to avoid the foods that cause reactions. If the reaction is mild and only affects a certain and consistent part of the body, like a localized rash or itching eyes and runny nose, avoiding the food may be the only treatment necessary.
If there are questions about which foods may be causing allergic reactions, seek the help of a health care professional for testing, diagnosis and proper medical treatment. Most food allergies can be avoided with careful planning and strict observation of diet. All it requires is diligence with a diet regimen, consultation with a health care professional and personal commitment to a long life of health and happiness.
If you have questions or concerns about food allergy, see your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a dietitian and nutritionist.
For more information about food allergy see allergy.org.au