Over the last 20 years the amount of people suffering from food allergies have risen dramatically. Studies show that In the UK at least 1 in 14 children under the age of 3 suffer from food allergies, although many will grow out out of it.
We’ve put together some important information about the difference between food allergies and intolerances, managing a food allergy, and how the free Spoon Guru app can help.
A food allergy is different to an intolerance, and it’s important to understand the difference between them.
An allergic reaction to food happens when the body’s immune system incorrectly identifies the proteins in certain foods as a threat, and sets out to defend itself by releasing chemicals, such as histamines, into the body.
These chemicals cause symptoms such as:
- Itchy rashes & hives
- An itchy feeling inside the ears, mouth & throat
- Facial swelling, particularly of the eyes & mouth
- Sneezing, a runny nose, coughing, or wheezing
- Vomiting & diarrhoea
Symptoms will usually (although not always) appear very quickly after the food is eaten, and for some people even trace amounts of the food can trigger an allergic reaction. Although reactions are often mild, at times the immune system can release chemicals throughout the whole body causing a major reaction such as anaphylaxis. These massive reactions can be life threatening, and each year in England and Wales alone, around 10 deaths a year are caused by an allergic reaction to food.
A food intolerance is caused when the body has trouble digesting a particular substance, but the immune system does not release chemicals to fight a perceived threat. Symptoms of an intolerance will often take several hours to present and will usually be triggered after a larger amount of the unsuitable food needs to be eaten to trigger a reaction.
Symptoms of a food intolerance can include:
- Bloating & stomach cramps
- Skin rash or itching
Unlike a food allergy, a food tolerance is never life threatening. Most common food intolerances include Lactose Intolerance and Wheat Intolerance.
Everyone is unique, and any food can potentially be an allergen depending on the individual. However, there are some foods that are more responsible for food allergies than others.
It’s thought that 90% of food allergies are caused by these foods:
Children & Food Allergy
Many children under the age of 3 have an allergy to one food or another. The most common foods that children are allergic to are:
For four out of five children, an allergy to peanuts will remain an allergy for life, and tree nut allergy can be equally persistent. However, most who suffer reactions to milk, eggs, wheat, and soya grow out of it by the time they start school.
Adults & Food Allergy
If a food allergy begins, or continues, into adulthood, it is most likely to be an allergy for life. The most common food allergies amongst adults are:
The NHS can provide blood or skin tests that can accurately determine if you have a food allergy. If you suspect you do, it’s important to get medical advice.
Once you have been diagnosed with a food allergy, it’s important to learn to recognise what the symptoms of an allergic reaction look like, and know what steps to take should it happen in future. It’s equally important to get advice from your GP before making any major changes to your child’s diet. In some instances, you may need to speak to a dietitian who can help guide you through these changes.
For more information about Food Allergies we recommend: