Food allergies are defined as an adverse effect on the health of a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly when exposed to a particular food.
In recent years, food allergies have caught attention due to increased prevalence in developed countries, both in adults and children of about 5% and 8%, respectively, and Chile is no exception.
As Laura Quezada, an academic at the School of Nutrition and Dietetics of the U. Andrés Bello, explains, «currently, the treatment is focused on the strict prohibition of the food or foods that cause allergies. It is essential that patients and/or parents of children with food allergies are educated in reading nutritional labelling and are aware of the potential cross-contamination of food in restaurants and elsewhere,» he says.
The specialist clarifies some myths and truths around food allergy.
Foods that cause more allergy
Foods that cause the most allergy in children are: milk, egg, peanuts, nuts and wheat. While in adults: they are fish, crustaceans and molluscs: True.
Those are the foods that contain the most allergens. In adults, most food allergies are triggered by proteins that are present in shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab), fish and nuts (nuts, peanuts, pecannuts). While in children, allergies are usually triggered by consumption of egg, cow’s milk, wheat, soybeans, nuts.
The most severe food allergies, could generate anaphylactic reactions that could potentially lead to death: True.
People who have had anaphylaxis should strictly avoid the food that triggered the reaction and know the pharmacological management of adrenaline or intramuscular epinephrine in case of accidental ingestion due to cross-contamination, should be prescribed previously by a specialist doctor (adrenaline auto-injector or epinephrine).
There are new strategies in allergy prevention: True.
There are new strategies for preventing early-stage allergies in life, which aim to help develop food tolerance more quickly, such as: 1) Early introduction of milk and egg in the baked form, if tolerated in children with these allergies; 2) Desensitization to food allergens and 3) Use of probiotics in infants with cow’s milk protein allergy (APLV). Currently, treatment is focused on a strict ban on allergy-causing foods.
If an allergic person only eats a «little» of the food, it won’t hurt him: False.
No matter how small the amount of food will cause allergy symptoms, therefore, you should completely avoid the allergen, i.e. you should directly avoid the consumption of the food that contains it, avoid cross-contamination, an elaborate product that contain the food or in lines that also process the food in question.
A person might stop being allergic: True.
Food allergies can go away, but it depends heavily on the food produced by the allergy, the age of the patient and the severity of the allergy. For example, a protein allergy in cow’s milk is more likely to disappear than an allergy to fish or nuts. It is also more likely to disappear in young children than in adolescents or adults. Allergies that cause mild reactions are more likely to go away than severe reactions.
Food allergies in Chile are rare: False.
Today, food allergies have received special attention globally, a growing public health problem, increasing prevalence in developed countries. In Chile, the team of the Division of Pediatrics of the UC School of Medicine published in 2014 the first results on food allergy prevalence in Chilean schoolchildren, showing that 5.5% of schoolchildren in the Metropolitan Region suffer from allergy food, being the main allergens nuts, peanuts and eggs.
Symptoms of food allergies are gastrointestinal only, i.e. only stomach pain and diarrhea occur: False.
Food allergies can induce oral, gastrointestinal, skin and respiratory disorders, accompanied by symptoms such as itching, angioedema, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, dyspnoea and Wheezing.