19 November 2018
MONDAY, Nov. 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Almost 8 percent of American children have food allergies, and 1 in 5 of those kids suffers an allergic reaction severe enough to wind up in the hospital, a new study finds. “Childhood food allergies are relatively common and should be taken seriously, with 1 in 5 having a reaction that takes them to the emergency room every year,” said lead researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The most common allergies are to peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, egg, fish, wheat, soy and sesame, Gupta said. Peanut is the most common food allergy, affecting about 2 million children, followed by milk (1 million), shellfish (1 million), tree nuts (1 million), eggs (nearly 1 million), fish (less than a half million), wheat and soy (.4 million) and sesame (.15 million), she said. Among children allergic to sesame, at least 1 in 3 had a reaction severe enough to visit the emergency room in the past year, Gupta said. Senior author Dr. Kari Nadeau, director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University in California, said food allergies are on the rise because children are not exposed to a variety of foods at a young age. People live a cleaner life, she said. “We are not exposed to the farm, animals and dirt. We know that if you have a dog at home during the first year of life, it protects you against allergies,” Nadeau said. Another way to prevent food allergies is to expose children early to the foods that cause most of them, she said. “Exposing children to these food late has actually caused an increase in food allergies, Nadeau said. In addition, adequate amounts of vitamin D and preventing dry skin are also important in reducing the odds of developing a food allergy, she said. Prevention is the only treatment available, Nadeau said. That means avoiding the foods one is allergic to, but that can be a challenge. It’s often hard to tell if a prepared food contains possible allergens. Although food packaging is often labeled, the law in the United States doesn’t require that sesame appear on a list of ingredients, as it must in Canada, Europe, Australia and Israel, Nadeau said. For example, a 15-year-old girl who was allergic to sesame died in June after eating a sandwich on a baguette that contained sesame, but was not labeled as such, Nadeau said. In the study, Gupta, Nadeau and colleagues asked nearly 40,000 parents if their children had food allergies. Specifically, the researchers asked if the children had a suspected food allergy, if it was diagnosed by a doctor, what were the symptoms of the allergic reaction and how it was treated. The research team also found that 41 percent of kids with food allergies had a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector, such as EpiPen. The most severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, which causes the airway to swell, making it hard or impossible to breathe. Injecting epinephrine rapidly reduces swelling and opens the airway. Epinephrine can save the life of someone having an allergic reaction, which is why people who are at risk for allergic reactions are encouraged to carry the drug with them at all times. “Parents who suspect that their child has a food allergy should consult a physician for testing so that foods are not unnecessarily avoided and that, if an allergy is confirmed, an epinephrine auto-injector can be prescribed for emergency treatment,” Gupta said. In addition to more kids having food allergies, many don’t outgrow them, Nadeau said. “It does not look like food allergies are getting better, and it does not look like they’re getting less,” she said. “It’s starting to look like those who have food allergies in childhood will have them in adulthood,” Nadeau said. Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo, medical director of the division of allergy and immunology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, said, “This important article highlights the public health epidemic that we have with food allergies.” She was not part of the study. Hernandez-Trujillo hopes that the recent changes in the recommendation about when infants should be introduced to solid food, which call for an earlier introduction, will turn the tide and stop the increase, but that will take years. The report was published online Nov. 19 in the journal Pediatrics . More information Visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology for more on food allergies.
17 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A severe allergic reaction to food is much less serious in infants than in toddlers and older children, a new study concludes. “We found that infants, unlike older children, have a low-severity food-induced anaphylaxis, which should come as reassuring news to parents who are about to introduce their baby to potentially allergenic foods like peanuts,” said study author Dr. Waheeda Samady, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Anaphylaxis is a whole-body allergic reaction that can include heart or respiratory problems. In older children, food-triggered anaphylaxis can be life-threatening, but in infants it mostly involves hives and vomiting, this study found. The researchers analyzed data from 47 infants, 43 toddlers, 96 young children and 171 school-aged children treated for food-induced anaphylaxis at a hospital emergency department over two years. Gastrointestinal symptoms were much more common in infants (89 percent) than in toddlers (63 percent), young children (60 percent), or school-aged children (58 percent). Vomiting was especially common among infants (83 percent), the findings showed. Rates of skin symptoms were 94 percent in infants, 91 percent in toddlers, and 62 percent in school-aged children. Hives were the most common skin symptom, affecting 70 percent of infants. Cough and other respiratory symptoms were more common in older age groups, affecting 17 percent of infants, 44 percent of young children, and 54 percent of school-aged children. Only one infant in the study had wheezing, and only one infant had low blood pressure. No infant in the study died from anaphylaxis, the researchers said. “Since early introduction of peanuts is now encouraged by national guidelines, it is understandable that parents might be fearful of triggering a serious reaction,” Samady, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, said in a hospital news release. According to study senior author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, of Lurie Children’s Hospital, “If a baby develops only a mild rash or gastrointestinal symptoms after trying a new food, we advise parents to discuss this reaction with the child’s physician.” But, “if there are multiple symptoms, make sure to call 911 and get emergency help immediately,” advised Gupta, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern. The report was published online recently in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on anaphylaxis.
23 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Though doctors recommend an early introduction to peanuts, many new moms prefer to delay giving them to their babies, researchers report. Allergy experts now say that infants should be exposed to the allergen by the time they are 4 to 6 months old. “Food allergies are scary, so it’s understandable that parents would hesitate to introduce a food they might see as dangerous,” said study co-author Dr. Edmond Chan. He is director of the allergy clinic at BC Children’s Hospital at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “Parents should consult with their pediatrician to help walk them through the process of early peanut introduction for their infant,” Chan said. For years, doctors instructed parents to delay exposing children to peanuts and other common food allergens, particularly those at high risk for peanut allergy. But this longstanding recommendation was reversed in 2017. Why? Mounting evidence showed that introducing peanuts to high-risk babies early in life could help lower their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The updated guidelines were endorsed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). But the new survey of 1,000 pregnant women and 1,000 new mothers found that many are still hesitant to give their babies peanut products. “The new guidelines are a breakthrough for preventing peanut allergy,” Chan said. “But we’re still working on helping parents and pediatricians understand how important the guidelines are for preventing peanut allergies.” The study, published March 19 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, revealed that 53 percent of the women surveyed discounted the importance of the updated guidelines. Study lead author Dr. Matthew Greenhawt said, “Since early peanut introduction is a relatively new idea, we were not surprised to find that more than half of those surveyed said following the guidelines was of no or limited importance.” Greenhawt is chair of the ACAAI’s Food Allergy Committee, and also co-director of the Children’s Hospital Colorado Food Challenge Unit. “We saw that, overall, 61 percent of respondents had no or minimal concern about their child developing a food allergy, and only 31 percent of respondents were willing to introduce peanut-containing foods before or around 6 months,” he added in a journal news release. In addition, the mothers were almost as reluctant to try to determine whether their child had a peanut allergy, the study authors said. Only 49 percent of the women were willing to allow their babies to undergo a peanut allergy skin test, and only 44 percent were willing to have their child complete an oral food challenge for peanut allergy during their first year of life, the findings showed. More information The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about peanut allergy.
14 February 2018
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — About 5 percent of American children and 4 percent of adults have a food allergy, but many more are getting unnecessary testing. Specific blood and skin prick tests can help detect food allergies. But the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommends them only for people who’ve had immediate allergic reactions, have a certain type of inflammation of the esophagus, or have moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, which appears as a skin rash. Testing isn’t warranted for conditions like hay fever, mild dermatitis and hives that have no apparent cause. If you suspect a food allergy, keep a log with these details about each food in question: How many minutes after eating the food did symptoms start? How much of the food did you eat before symptoms started? Have you eaten this food before and had a reaction? Do you always have a reaction with certain foods? Does taking allergy medication, like an antihistamine, relieve symptoms? Know the most common food allergens: Eggs. Milk. Peanuts. Tree nuts. Wheat. Shellfish. Fish. Soy. Keep in mind that the only way to conclusively diagnose a food allergy is with an oral food challenge, a test that can put you at risk for a severe allergic reaction. So it must be done by an experienced health care professional. Misdiagnosed allergies can lead to nutritional deficiencies, anxiety and high medical expenses. So talk to your doctor about other options, like keeping a food log, before you start the testing process. When researchers evaluated people getting tested at one clinic, only one-third had a medical history that suggested food allergy testing was warranted, yet nearly half were already avoiding certain foods. When patients were looked at more closely, nearly 90 percent of those avoiding foods were able to put at least one of them back in their diet. More information The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has a comprehensive guide to diagnosing and managing food allergies.