‘Food Allergy part 2’ by Dr Helen Dodd published in Great Health Guide (Sep 2016). In Food Allergy Part 1, the signs and symptoms of food allergies were discussed with reference to specific foods which may cause a problem. In this part of the series, Dr Dodd explains the different treatments for allergic reactions and minimising the occurring of allergic reactions.
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NUTRITION: Food Allergy Part 2
written by Dr Helen Dodd
In Food Allergy Part 1, the signs and symptoms of food allergies were discussed with reference to specific foods which may cause a problem. Food allergy is an immune response to a specific protein within some foods, that the body reacts to, believing it to be foreign and harmful. Serious life-threatening allergic reactions are referred to as an anaphylactic shock.
At present there is no cure for a food allergy, but many foods can be identified and tested using a Skin-Prick Test. This simple diagnostic test, carried out by a specialised dermatologist, was discussed in Food Allergy Part 1.
Treatments for allergic reactions
It is very important to have your GP write up an action plan in the event that a family member does ingest a problem food. This action plan should be reviewed every 12 months to determine if any factors have changed. Treatments for allergic reactions include antihistamine tablets, cortisone tablets and cortisone injections prescribed by doctor as well as an injection of adrenaline, also called epinephrine. Adrenaline injections are used to prevent an anaphylactic reaction. Adrenalin injections are used for emergency treatment at hospitals but many patients carry a specially designed EpiPen® Auto-Injector with them at all times. This is an automatic syringe that delivers a single pre-measured dose of epinephrine.
It is also important that the parent and child learn to administer these specialised injections. The package insert shows clear directions on how to use the Auto-injector. They are available in two strengths, for adults and children. Children at risk need to have them available while at school and at home.
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Education is the key to avoiding allergic reactions.
1. Managing food allergies is important. Individuals at risk need to be educated on what foods cause the allergy so that they can avoid consuming them. Children can easily be educated about their allergies. This is vital so that they are able to tell a teacher or other non-family members what foods they are not allowed to eat. Living with a food allergy is quite a challenge as many foods have trace amounts of an allergen in them.
2. Eating out has challenges. At restaurants, ask for information about the contents of the food being served. Sometimes simple things such as sauces and mayonnaise contain ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction. Under Australian law, a food business must provide accurate information to customers of the presence of the allergens that are listed below. This is not a complete list, but mentions the most common allergens.
Crustaceans and their products (e.g. prawns, crab, crayfish etc.)
Peanuts and peanut products, tree nuts (e.g. almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan, Brazil, pistachio, macadamia etc.)
Soybeans and soybean products, sesame seeds and products
Fish and fish products
Egg and egg products, milk and milk products
Gluten and cereals containing gluten (e.g. wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt)
Further Information is available at from the website of the Western Australian Department of Health.
3. Learning to read labels on packaged food. This is one of the most important factors in education. Food manufacturers are aware of the potential life threatening allergic reactions and are obliged by law to print warnings on the labels in large type. These statements often refer to trace amounts that may be in the processed food. This can occur in the manufacturing and packaging processes where the same machinery is used for different products. However, there are many other ingredients that are listed in the contents to which an individual may be allergic but not displayed in the very large type, as are the warnings required trace amounts of nuts and gluten.
4. Make your own food. Don’t buy packaged products. One way to avoid these problem foods is to not buy prepackaged foods. Make your own foods from basic ingredients; main meals, biscuits and desserts, so you know the ingredients they actually contain. The time used in food preparation will be easily offset by the time taken at hospital emergency departments and stress to the family member.
It is important to realise that whenever a family member has a food allergy, the offending foods must not be purchased or brought into the house. All of the family members will become part of the vigilance that is required to prevent allergic food reactions.
In the next issue of Great Health GuideTM, Food Intolerance will be discussed to provide an understanding of the difference between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance and how these conditions can affect your nutruition.
Author of this article:
Helen Dodd BSc. BPharm. PhD, is a retired pharmacist, continuing to provide information and education on nutrition and diseases that affect modern society. Contact Helen by email.
by Dr. Sue Shepherd
Paperback. Published 2012.
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