Are Peanut & Other Food Allergies Getting Worse?

Allergic reactions are caused when the body's immune system over-reacts to a particular allergen. When an allergic reaction is severe, or anaphylaxis in nature, air passages swell making breathing difficult or impossible (respiratory arrest may result). Everyone wants to know why there seems to be an increase in food allergies, especially where peanuts are concerned.

Research confirms that allergies are indeed on the rise. The fact of the matter is that no one is really sure why. Are we trying to be too sterile & hypo-allergenic? Are there too many things we are now exposed to in our industrial world? Does an expecting mother’s diet &/or expose to allergens affect her unborn child? Does it help to be exposed to animals at an early age? Are kids from big families less likely to have allergies? This is the type of research that is going on. More research is obviously still needed.

According to Health Canada, there are 10 foods that are most likely to cause severe food allergies. These include:

-          Peanuts

-          Eggs

-          Milk

-          Tree Nuts

-          Wheat

-          Soy

-          Sesame seeds

-          Seafood (fish, crustaceans & shellfish)

-          Sulphites (substances that naturally occur in food and the human body. They are also regulated food additives that are used as preservatives.)

-          Mustard

Finding mustard on the list was a surprise to me. It is a relatively new addition to Health Canada’s top 10 food allergen list. To find out more about these food allergies & the decision to declare mustard a priority allergen, check this Health Canada link: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/allerg/fa-aa/index-eng.php.

If you have allergic reactions to food, take the following precautions to minimize your risk.

-          Avoid foods that have caused an allergic reaction in the past. When shopping read food labels (check list of ingredients carefully). Check for allergy warnings on packages. For example chocolate chips that I use in baking are made in a factory where other peanut products are made. As a result, someone eatting my home baked chocolate chip cookies could have an allergic reaction to peanuts (even though there are no peanuts in my cookies). When eatting out, ask questions about what is in the food you are being served.

-          If you have a child that you think may be allergic to certain foods, introduce one new food at a time so that you can recognize an allergic reaction. If you know your child has severe allergies, be especially vigilant & tell anyone looking after the child about the allergies, possible reactions & what to do if a reaction happens.

-          Anaphylaxis allergies can cause death if it isn’t treated immediately. Wear a medic alert identifier & carry an epinephrine pen/auto-injector with you (prescribed by your doctor). This pen will help you to breathe in an emergency & can save your life

-          Tell others, for example your co-workers, about your severe allergies. If you carry an epinephrine pen, tell them where you keep it (so they can help you in an emergency).

Anybody can develop a food allergy, even athletes. Allergies can develop at any age & sometimes, we out-grow them. If you suffer from food allergies, visit our doctor & get tested. Follow their advice & try the tips above to minimize your risk.