The Spectrum of Food Allergy
Many people experience food intolerances of some kind, such as increased heartburn from alcohol and spicy foods, or nausea and diarrhea from dairy products (lactose intolerance). But when their reactions are immunologically-based, symptoms can be more severe including hives, itchy mouth, difficulty breathing and life-threatening anaphylaxis. These reactions usually happen within minutes or no longer than one hour following food ingestion, and their presence can be confirmed with skin prick or blood testing. The most common food allergies are:
- Tree nuts
- Bony fish
There are also delayed-type immunological reactions which produce different types of symptoms. Young children with atopic dermatitis (allergic eczema) exhibit rashes that are triggered by foods one-third of the time, and older children and adults with swallowing difficulty may have eosinophilic esophagitis. Although the latter problem is initially diagnosed by a gastroenterologist, patients are often evaluated by an allergist in order to identify any food triggers contributing to the inflammation in their esophagus.
Persons with immediate-type food allergies must avoid their triggering foods, and read all food labels carefully. Emergency medication in the form of an epinephrine auto-injector should be kept available at all times, and written “action plans” are required for daycare attendees and school-age students. Some food allergies are outgrown, and through testing we can determine if/when one of your problem foods can be reintroduced. Moreover, while watchful waiting used to be the only “treatment” for food allergies, intervention strategies are now being developed for children. Specifically, ingestion of baked versions of some foods may help promote resolution of their sensitivities sooner. Testing can also be performed to determine if your child is a candidate for this kind of therapy.
Below is a link to a recent newspaper article in which Dr. Skorpinski addressed the topic of food allergies in children:
Another good source for food allergy information is The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN):