Food Allergies in Kids

I recently was on ABC in San Francisco talking about Food Allergies in  

There are 1.5 million people in the US with a peanut allergy.  

This has increased exponentially over the last few years, which has some experts scratching their heads. What's up with the increase?  Interestingly, I found some information about prevalence of food allergies being related to the levels of exposures.  For example, in Japan, where people are exposed to and eat more fish, there's more rice allergies and in Scandinavia, where people eat more fish and thus have more exposure, there are more fish allergies.  This makes sense to me. As people have repeated exposures to allergens, they tend to develop more severe allergic responses.

When a person is exposed to an allergen, their body reacts by releasing histamine.  Histamine is like the body's way of waving a red flag that signals that it doesn't like this substance.  Histamine causes redness, swelling and inflammation.  In mild to moderate reactions, it can cause the skin or back of the throat to itch.  Often the skin will become red with hives. All of these are warning signs that alert the person that continuing exposure to this substance isn't a good idea.  In the case of severe allergies, the release of histamine can cause so much swelling in the airway that there's wheezing or a complete lack of oxygen and respiratory arrest.  There are also histamine receptors in the heart which can go into spasm causing a heart attack.  This is known as anaphylaxis and claims about 1,500 people each year who die from the most severe reactions to allergens be they food or bee-stings.

1 in 13 kids have a food allergy and it may only manifest as a slight itching in the back of the throat or as a rash that suddenly appears in the crook of your elbow.  Too often people miss the association between food allergies and skin eruptions. There is an association between eczema and and food allergies.

The key is to decrease exposures and my advice to pregnant women is that if they have any food allergies themselves or a family history, to avoid those foods while pregnant and breastfeeding.   To read more on  what foods to avoid in pregnancy, check out my Personal Guide to Pregnancy.

Follow me on Twitter@NurseBarbDehn.


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