Several months ago I wrote an article about food allergies because I work with so many families who have one or more family members dealing with them. Today Pediatrics released a study conducted with approximately 40,000 families that determined that based on this data, about 1 in 12, or about 6 million children in the United states is suffering from a food allergy. This is the first study that was designed specifically to look at food allergies and the severity of the reaction in children. About 40 percent of the children’s reactions were considered severe and possibly life-threatening.
This study brings light to the fact that food allergies are an important chronic condition that is challenging to address because children are in contact with food from many different sources each day. The lead researcher wants to bring attention to food allergies in institutions like schools to so they can start to modify their offerings to become sensitive to the most common allergies for children during their meal preparation. The most common food allergies found in the study were milk, peanuts and shellfish. The study also found that children of African-American and Asian descent tended to have higher incidences of food allergies yet they were less likely to be diagnosed by a medical professional.
Food allergies are an abnormal response by the immune system to food. Food allergies occur when there is an adverse reaction from our immune system to foods that we are eating or drinking. There are proteins, called antigens, on foods that act as markers to tell our body what food it was. If our immune system has a reaction to a food then it produces a substance called an antibody which then attaches itself to the antigen on the food. This antigen-antibody complex alerts the immune system to come and get rid of the substance that is causing the reaction. An anaphylactic reaction or an IgE reaction is a severe reaction causing the immune system to over-react to the food being ingested. Symptoms of an allergic anaphylactic reaction may be a tingling sensation, itching, or a metallic taste in the mouth.