Enjoy a peanut butter sandwich, a glass of milk, or fish fillet? These seemingly normal harmless foods can seriously upset, or even kill those who are allergic to them.
Food allergy is a reaction by the immune system to a food protein. The condition is commonly associated with asthma, hay fever and eczema.
These allergies affect 4% of children and 2% of adults in New Zealand. It runs in families. There is 50% risk of developing a food allergy if one parent has it and a 70% risk if both parents have it.
Food allergy is common in children, but many grow out of it.
The big eight foods that cause 90% of food allergies are cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat , soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts.
Egg and dairy allergies are the commonest in children.
When a food allergy reaction occurs, it is immediate. It can show from a few seconds to two hours after eating.
There are four types of reaction:
Anaphylactic shock is life threatening and includes:
It requires immediate action – dial 111.
An adrenaline injection and/or antihistamine drugs are given to save a life when anaphylaxis occurs.
Some children can grow out of food allergies. 90% of children outgrow milk and egg allergies by age 10. 20% of children will outgrow peanut allergy. Children often out grow wheat allergy by age two.
Note that chicken and egg products are used in the manufacture of some vaccines. It's best to ask your family doctor what is in the vaccine.
The effects of food intolerance can be immediate, but can take longer to show. It can involve several foods and is not a reaction by the immune system. Also, with a food Intolerance, you can eat small amount of the food without a reaction. With a food allergy, even the tiniest amount will cause a reaction.
Common food intolerances include:
Some of the symptoms of food intolerance can mimic allergy, but you never get a full collapse with intolerance.
For more information about food allergy, go to www.allergy.org.nz
Food Allergies Can Kill PDF (196KB)
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