Food allergies are a major problem across the United States, affecting millions of people. These allergies go far beyond the itchy eyes and stuffy nose of hay fever; they can lead to serious health risks and even death. The common accepted wisdom is that allergies run in families and that if one child is allergic to a food substance, their siblings will be as well. A current study, however, is showing that this is not necessarily the case.
Food allergies have been in the public consciousness more often of late. This is because evidence points to it becoming more prevalent among children. The reasons for this are not yet entirely clear, but could be related to the kinds of pollutants children in urban areas experience or a variety of other factors.
Food allergies occur when the body triggers an abnormal immune response to a normal protein called IgE. The protein views a normally harmless food as dangerous, and produces histamines that create symptoms such as abdominal cramps, hives, nausea, vomiting, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, dizziness, fainting and other serious issues that come with the serious condition known as anaphylaxis.
The recent study, presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) determined that while over 50 percent of siblings of children with allergies had food sensitivity, only about 13 percent actually had full-blown allergies. A food sensitivity just produces minor discomfort or mild symptoms like diarrhea, where a true food allergy can be severe and deadly.
The study included 1,120 children, all of whom had a sibling with a confirmed allergy to food. This status was determined via detailed review of clinical history, specific blood tests and skin prick testing. Researchers clarify that the link between food allergies in siblings has never been 100 percent clear, and the risk is more perceived than real.
Reasons and Recommendations
Because this assumption is in place, parents often rush to test all of their children when one is found to have an allergy. This kind of testing can create unreasonable concerns. Testing if there hasn’t been an actual reaction actually creates a strong possibility for false positives.
Researchers point out that these tests are a poor indicator of the presence of allergies when there has not been a prior actual reaction. Testing, scientists say, should be used to confirm, rather than predict, the presence of an allergy.
Food Allergies in Atlanta
For those who are concerned their children may have a food allergy, the best bet is to approach a trained medical professional. Your doctor knows how to check for allergies without creating the danger of false positives, or worse, the risk of increasing a sensitivity into a full-blown allergy. If you would like more information about food allergies in Atlanta, we are here to help. Take some time to read more about food allergies in children, and give us a call for an appointment today!