10 Myths About Food Allergies in Children
Allergies to food are among the most commonly occurring allergic disorders. While lots of people, especially children, around the world are affected by food allergies, there are still many misconceptions about this condition. In this article, we will discuss 10 common myths about food allergies in children.
#1: Food Allergy Is a Cause of Any Symptom You Develop After Eating a Food
Food allergies are common in kids, but not all the symptoms triggered by food indicate a food allergy. Your child may have a reaction as a result of other conditions, such as food intolerances, digestive diseases, food aversion, or hyperactivity.
The main difference between food intolerances and food allergies is that allergies involve the immune system. When a food allergen gets into your body, your immune system produces the antibody IgE (immunoglobulin E), which leads to the release of histamine – a chemical responsible for most of the food allergy symptoms.
#2: You Can Develop an Allergy Only to Certain Foods
Most children (and adults) with food allergies are sensitive to one of the eight most common food allergens: peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. However, children can develop an allergy to almost any food. Thus, even fruits and vegetables may sometimes trigger a reaction – a condition known as oral allergy syndrome.
#3: Food Allergies Cannot Be Outgrown
Although the chances of outgrowing a food allergy rather depend on what causes the allergy, children are likely to outgrow their allergy, if they follow an allergen elimination diet for at least 2 to 3 years.
#4: Most Food Allergies in Children Are Caused by Peanuts
#5: A Positive Antibody Level Indicates an Allergy to One or Several Foods
There are various ways to determine a food allergy in a child, including blood testing. However, it is important to interpret the test correctly in order to make an accurate diagnosis. For instance, newer allergy tests like the RAST and Immunicap RAST don’t tell directly whether a kid is allergic or not, but they give the level of antibodies, which can be negative or positive and range from low to very high. High antibody levels to a certain food indicate that a person is allergic to this food. If your child’s test shows negative or low antibody levels (or even moderate levels), allergy is not very likely to be involved. In this case, the diagnosis should be based on the symptoms your child has.
#6: You Can Reduce the Risk of an Allergic Reaction by Cooking a Food
There is a belief that cooking an allergy-triggering food can alter its protein and make the food less allergenic. Thus, some people think that children with an egg allergy can safely eat a cake that contains eggs.
In fact, according to experts, some allergens, such as fruits and vegetables, do lose their “allergenic properties” after being cooked, but most foods can still trigger allergies even after a thermal treatment.
#7: Kids Allergic to a Food Can Still Consume Small Amounts
If you have a food allergy, the only way to avoid the symptoms is to avoid the allergen. Eating this food, even in small amounts, may cause dangerous symptoms. If your child didn’t have a reaction after eating a little bit of his trigger food once, this doesn’t mean he won’t react to it next time.
Besides, giving small amounts of the food your child is allergic to may decrease his or her chances of outgrowing the allergy. The best to outgrow an allergy to food is to avoid this food completely for a few years.
#8: There Is No Such Thing as a Food Allergy
Food allergies exist, and they can be very serious. In some cases, people with food allergies may develop a reaction to trace amounts of the food found on utensils, or even react to the food they are just touching but now eating.
Therefore, it is important to arrange a totally allergy-safe environment for your child.
#9: Avoiding Allergenic Foods Is Easy
Avoiding the whole foods that trigger your child’s allergy (e.g. milk, eggs or fish) may not be a big problem. However, it becomes more difficult when you need to avoid these ingredients in other food products, especially if they are commonly used in cooking.
The best way to ensure allergy-safe grocery shopping is to read the food labels carefully and check them for any potential allergens. When you eat out, you should always ask about the ingredients of food offered to your child.
#10: Food Allergy Is Not a Serious Disorder
Allergic reactions to food can be life-threatening. In the United States alone, about 150 people die each year from severe allergic reactions to foods. Many of these people are children or teenagers with food allergies who don’t survive a deadly reaction after eating their trigger food.
Parents whose children are allergic to food should not only protect him from dangerous foods, but also explain them how to identify and avoid these foods. Kids with severe food allergies may also need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g. EpiPen), in case of an emergency.