June 2011

Though we try to teach our children to eat healthy, get plenty of exercise, and sleep well - all the things we should be doing, this is not always easy. Not only are children faced with obesity issues in this country today, but there is also an increase in food allergies.

Allergies of any kind are on the increase for many reasons. Some are airborne, others ingested. Foods that may not have caused allergic reactions in the past, may affect children and adults differently in our changing world, without explanation and often undiagnosed. Climate and chemicals affect what we eat and feed our children.

While genetic inheritance is a factor in the development of allergies, avoiding the early introduction of potentially allergenic food is the basic step in the primary prevention of food allergies in children who are at high risk.

Children whose parents both have allergies have about a 40 to 70 percent chance of developing allergies themselves. The risk drops to 20 to 30 percent if only one parent has allergies, and it goes down to 10 percent if neither parent is allergic. Protecting children from food allergies begins as early as pregnancy. Many expecting mothers avoid eating any foods to which other family members are allergic; this may reduce the risk of their newborn developing food allergies.

Food allergies often go undetected and untreated for too long, as some of the symptoms closely resemble other ailments. Some symptoms of food allergies include: itching, stuffy nose, wheezing, hives, watery or red eyes, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and fussiness. A food allergy can be so severe that any contact with the allergen will cause immediate swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat. In many cases, eczema (a skin rash) is the only sign of a food allergy and may get overlooked. If your infant or child is suffering from any these symptoms, consult your pediatrician, as it may be an indication of a food allergy.

June 2011 Studies

According to a recent study, led by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, about 8 percent of U.S. children could be afflicted with food allergies. In what was possibly the largest study of its kind, parents of more than 38,000 children answered an online questionnaire about whether their child had been diagnosed with a food allergy and about the symptoms associated with it. The survey found out that an estimated six million children in the U.S. could be suffering from food allergies.

Food allergies are different from food intolerance, a condition associated with digestion and metabolism and which does not involve immune system. Sometimes when people think of food [allergies], they think of rash or stomach ache. What I donŐt think people understand is that it can be life-threatening, said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, the lead author of the study.

Among children with food allergy, an alarming 38.7 percent had suffered severe reactions, and 30.4 percent had multiple food allergies, the report concluded.

The study also identified most common allergens. Affecting 25.2 percent of food-allergic children, peanuts top the list, followed by milk (21.1 percent) and shellfish (17.2 per cent). Other allergy-triggering substances include tree nuts, egg, fin fish, strawberry, wheat, and soy.

Black and Asian children were more likely to have food allergies than white children. A possible reason for this disparity, according to Gupta, may include the fact that children from minority or low-income households have less access to medical care, or perhaps because their parents might not be familiar with food allergies.

Beside health effects, food allergies among children can have serious social and psychological implications for a growing child. Children who are peanut allergic are relegated to the peanut-free table at school, which kind of makes them feel like outcasts, WebMD quoted Susan Schuval, a pediatric allergist at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., as saying. "Plus thereŐs a fear of having an allergic reaction after eating certain foods or going to a restaurant. It really can affect your whole life."

According to Gupta, allergies are a particularly difficult chronic condition because kids canŐt escape food in any part of their daily lives. They're going out with their friends and they donŐt want to feel different. They may not ask the ingredients in everything, you know, at a restaurant, in front of people. she said. This study shows that thereŐs a very high, and higher than we thought, prevalence of food allergy in the U.S. says Schuval, who was not involved in the study. We see this in our clinic, Schuval says, tons and tons of food allergies, WebMD reported.

The study was funded by Food Allergy Initiative (FAI), a non-profit advocacy group founded in 1998 by concerned parents and grandparents.

  1 in 12 kids may have food allergies   MSNBC - June 21, 2011
As many as one in every 12 kids in the United States may have a food allergy, according to a new study that appears to confirm that the condition is more widespread - and perhaps more dangerous - than previously thought.