Food allergy and food reactions

Diagnosing food allergy

Food allergy can be diagnosed by means of skin-prick tests to various foods or by a RAST (radioallergosorbent test) on a blood sample.

If no food can be identified, but an allergic reaction is strongly suspected, an elimination diet lasting two to four weeks should be instituted. This involves eating only a limited number of foods that are unlikely to cause allergies, such as lamb, rice, pears and sweet potato.

Once the allergic symptoms settle, food is slowly reintroduced one at a time to identify the offending substance. When this involves children it is highly recommended to be done under the supervision of a dietician, as they can end up in a state of malnutrition on a prolonged restriction diet.

Allergenic Foods

  • Cow’s Milk: Two out of a hundred infants under one year old suffer from cow’s milk allergy, making it the most common foodreactions allergy of childhood. In general children lose this sensitivity as they grow up with nine out of ten losing it by the age of three; it is unusual for adults to suffer from this allergy.
  • Eggs: Allergy to eggs is usually observed in young children rather than adults, and like cow’s milk allergy, fades with time. Occasionally children suffer from a severe form of allergy which is not outgrown.
  • Fish and shellfish: Allergies to shellfish are unusual in children, mostly being experienced by adults. Reactions to fish are found in children and adults. The incidence of seafood allergy is higher in those countries with a high consumption of fish and shellfish.
  • Fruits: In general allergic reactions to fruits and vegetables are mild, and are often limited to the mouth, and are called the oral-allergy syndrome (OAS).
  • Legumes: This group of foods includes soya beans and peanuts. Peanuts are one of most allergenic foods and frequently causes very severe reactions, including anaphylaxis. Allergy to peanuts is established in childhood and usually maintained throughout life.
  • Tree nuts: This group includes true tree nuts, such as Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnut and pecan. Whilst not as intensively studied as peanuts, indications are that tree nuts can cause symptoms as severe which can occasionally be fatal.
  • Cereals: Suffered by children and adults alike, wheat allergy appears to be particularly associated with exercise-induced anaphylaxis. The more of a cereal (wheat, rye, barley, oats, maize or rice) we eat the more likely we are to suffer an allergy. Thus rice allergy is found more frequently in populations eating ethnic diets.

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