These days we hear a lot about food allergies and intolerances. Raising a child with a serious food allergy can be a daunting prospect while dealing with intolerances requires careful planning.
Whether it’s introducing your child to solids and new foods for the first time or encountering intolerances and allergies in the teen years, it’s not always clear how to navigate such a complex issue and stay vigilant. A 2011-12 study conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found 17% of Australians aged two years or over (or 3.7 million people) reported avoiding a food type due to allergy or intolerance. That’s almost one in five people. Knowing how to keep an eye out for intolerances or allergies and ensuring they are diagnosed properly is the key to managing them.
Our team at Life Education Queensland had the opportunity to chat to leading dietitian and author Kate Di Prima, for our latest podcast Growing Happy Little Veggie-mites! which is all about nutrition, health and allergies.
Here are a couple of Kate’s expert tips to keep in mind when it comes to allergies and intolerances.
While food allergies and intolerances can be broad – covering anything from nuts to capsicum – there are a few common foods that cause reactions in some children and adults. Kate says: “Our biggest allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, dairy, wheat, and soy.” Kate confirms that childhood allergies often carry through to adulthood and need to be carefully managed. “It’s generally more the peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish. They’re the ones that stick with you for life.”
However, as Kate explains in the podcast, children often grow out of dairy, wheat, and egg allergies. In her practice work with families, Kate utilises egg and dairy ladders, which help parents introduce children to small amounts of the problem food on a regular basis to try to desensitise the overworked immune system.
For many parents who discover their child suffers from what seems to be an allergy or intolerance, the first reaction is often to remove the food entirely from their child’s diet. Kate says it’s important that parents seek professional advice. “I cannot recommend enough for parents to go and make sure they get allergies and intolerances diagnosed properly so that it doesn’t start a child on a pathway that they don’t need to be on.”
It can be common for families to misdiagnose an allergy or intolerance so it’s always best to go to your local GP to investigate further and have any food issues properly diagnosed.
Symptoms for allergies or intolerances range from anything mild through to severe reactions. So, what should you watch out for in your children? Mild to moderate symptoms can include swelling of the face, lips, eyes, abdominal pain or vomiting, and hives/welts on the skin.
Severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis can include symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a swelling tongue, tightness of the throat, difficulty talking, dizziness, and a pale and floppy tongue. Read more about food allergy symptoms here.
To hear more of our free resources for families, visit our Life Education Queensland nutrition podcasts here, or you can find us on your favourite podcast platforms.