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Food Allergies Melissa Bess Nutrition and Health Education Specialist FNEP STAFF TRAINING ONLY, DO NOT USE WITH FNEP PARTICIPANTS 03/2007 Discussion Topics What is a food allergy? Who gets a food allergy? Most common food allergies Symptoms How is it diagnosed?

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food allergies

Food Allergies

Melissa Bess

Nutrition and Health Education Specialist



discussion topics
Discussion Topics
  • What is a food allergy?
  • Who gets a food allergy?
  • Most common food allergies
  • Symptoms
  • How is it diagnosed?
  • How can you avoid food allergies?
  • Tips to prevent allergies
  • What to do if there is a reaction.
discussion topics3
Discussion Topics
  • Children and allergies
  • New research
  • How a child might describe reaction
  • Food intolerance
  • Cross-reactions
  • Hidden allergens
what is a food allergy
What is a food allergy?
  • Immune system function
  • Super-sensitive
  • Allergens
  • Usually the protein part
  • Allergens react to antibodies
  • Release chemicals causing symptoms
who gets a food allergy
Who gets a food allergy?
  • About 3 to 8 percent of children have reaction
  • Only 1 to 2 percent have true food allergies
  • Children usually grow out of sensitivity by age 4 (not peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish)
  • About 1 to 2 percent of adults
most common food allergies
Most common food allergies
  • Children
    • Milk, egg, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts
    • Most will outgrow eggs, milk, wheat, and soy
  • Adults
    • Peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts), fish, shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab), mollusks (oysters, clams, scallops)
most common food allergies7
Most common food allergies
  • Peanuts and/or tree nuts = three million Americans (1.1% of population)
  • About 150 people in US die each year, 30,000 ER visits
  • About 4% believed to have food allergy, 2.3% to seafood
  • More than 160 foods associated with allergic reactions
symptoms of food allergies
Symptoms of food allergies
  • Reaction within minutes to two hours
  • How soon and how severe depend on sensitivity to food, how much was consumed, other foods consume, and preparation
  • May have minor symptoms at first
Digestive system

Swelling, itching








Body systems (skin, lungs, etc)

Hives, skin swelling

Anaphylaxis – BP falls, wheezing, breathing problems, nausea, rapid pulse, flushing, faintness, passing out

Can lead to death

  • Severe reactions more common in peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, and eggs
  • Also more common in those with asthma
  • Death usually seen in peanuts or tree nuts
how are food allergies diagnosed
How are food allergies diagnosed?
  • Physician
  • Medical history, physical exam
  • Skin test
  • Lab tests
  • Oral food challenge
  • Elimination diet
  • Double-blind food challenge
how can you avoid food allergies
How can you avoid food allergies?
  • Identify those at risk
  • Consult a doctor
  • Consider breast feeding
  • Maternal diet avoiding eggs, cow milk, peanuts, fish
tips to prevent allergies
Tips to prevent allergies
  • Do not consume allergic foods
  • Read the ingredient list
    • New in 2006 – must clearly state food allergen (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans)
  • If traveling, bring special foods
  • When eating out, ask about foods
tips to prevent allergies15
Tips to prevent allergies
  • Know which children have allergies and what those are
  • Know how to recognize symptoms
  • Have a plan in cause of allergic response
  • Wash hands with soap, surfaces with cleaners for peanut allergies
what to do if a child has a reaction
What to do if a child has a reaction
  • Take medication
  • Seek medical help
  • Keep injectable epinephrine
  • Wear Medic-Alert bracelet
children and allergies
Children and allergies
  • For babies, discuss formula options with doctor
  • Don’t introduce solid foods too early – wait about 6 months
  • Wait on foods with common allergens
    • Cow milk – age 1
    • Eggs – age 2
    • Peanuts, nuts or fish – age 3 or after
    • American Academy of Pediatricians
children and allergies18
Children and allergies
  • Cow’s milk common – cause hives, asthma, colic, sleeplessness, blood in stool, poor growth
  • Immature immune systems
  • May change to soy or elemental formula
  • Drugs to severe cases
  • Breast milk helps
new research
New research
  • Peanut allergies increasing
  • Peanut exposure, in peanut butter, reduces severe reaction
  • Peanut vaccine
  • Link in food allergies and asthma
  • Roasting peanuts may increase allergic properties
  • FDA proposing a gluten-free label
how child describes reaction
How child describes reaction
  • Put hands to mouth, pull or scratch tongues, voices may change
  • “Food is too spicy”
  • “My tongue is hot, something is poking it”
  • “My mouth is tingly, itches, or feels funny”
  • “My tongue feels full, my throat feels thick”
food intolerance
Food Intolerance
  • More common than allergies
  • Food poisoning
  • Histamine toxicity (cheese, wine, fish)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Food additives (MSG)
  • Gluten intolerance (small intestine)
  • Corn products
  • True allergy – avoid food (immune system)
  • Intolerance – small amount is ok (digestive system)
cross reactions food and non food
Cross Reactions (food and non-food)
  • Ragweed- Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, bananas
  • Birch pollen-carrots, apples, hazelnuts, potatoes
  • Banana – latex
  • * If allergic to one shellfish or legumes, likely allergic to all!
hidden allergens
Hidden allergens
  • Eggs – baked goods, noodles
  • Milk – pies, cheese
  • Soy – baked goods, candy, tv dinners
  • Wheat – flours, soup mixes, snacks
  • Peanut – candy, baked goods, ice cream
  • Fish – seafood flavors
  • New food labels should help
eating out with allergies
Eating out with allergies
  • Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, etc dishes usually made with peanuts
  • Cross-contamination of allergens
  • Not as easy to read ingredient list
  • Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)
  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • USDA – National Agriculture Library