Food allergy is on the increase and now affects about 1 in 10 Australian children.
Any food can cause an allergy but the ones that cause more than 90% of cases are:
- Cow’s milk
- Peanuts and tree nuts
Fortunately, the majority of food allergies are mild. Symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes of eating and include hives (a lumpy, itchy skin rash), nausea or vomiting, swelling of the lip or mouth and a runny nose.
In more severe cases, difficulty breathing due to throat swelling or asthma, or dizziness can occur. These symptoms indicate anaphylaxis, a potentially life threatening reaction.
Most children grow out of milk and egg allergies by school age. However, peanut, tree nut and seafood allergies often persist.
How to manage food allergies
Once the offending food is identified, usually by skin or blood tests, the key is to avoid it wherever possible:
- Learn to read food labels carefully.
- When eating away from home, inform the cook or chef about the allergy.
- Discourage swapping of foods.
- Send your child to parties with their own special party food.
- Warn babysitters and other caregivers.
Children who have had anaphylaxis should learn to detect early symptoms as more severe symptoms may follow. Get an anaphylaxis action plan from your GP and always have an adrenaline autoinjector available.
Desensitisation does not work for food allergy.
Can food allergies be prevented?
Breastfeeding for at least 6 months and solids from 4-6 months can help.
Avoiding potentially allergenic foods in pregnancy and in childhood does not seem to help and is not recommended.
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.