It is believed that in the US there are over five million children that have food allergies. That’s two for every classroom. These figures, though no one knows why, are also on the rise. With this in mind, we need to ensure that parents have the information they need surrounding food allergies and that the information is good. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and many myths about food allergies prevail. Here are some of those myths.
Once you have a food allergy, you’ll always have a food allergy
This is partly true and partly myth. Some nuts, shellfish, and fish are typically allergies that will last a lifetime. Soy, wheat, and milk, however, can be and are often outgrown.
Intolerance to foods and allergies are the same thing
This could not be further from the truth. Food intolerance is not a less severe type of food allergy. In fact, food intolerance equates to having trouble digesting a food and feeling sick while eating or after eating. Allergies, on the other hand, are a reaction from your immune system and can be life-threatening.
The risk for young children concerning food allergies is high
This is partially true in that young children cannot read food labels or recognize that certain foods they are allergic to are ingredients in the food they are eating. However, teens are probably a higher risk group as they are prone to risk-taking behavior.
Eating a little of a food you have an allergen to won’t hurt
It has been proven that even a trace of foods such as peanuts can bring on the allergic reaction of the sufferer. Therefore, it is not the case that just a little of an allergen food will be OK.
An allergy causing a rash means that the allergy is not serious
How severe an allergy is cannot be judged by the fact that a child only develops a rash. Reactions due to food allergies vary, and there is nothing to say that a rash this time won’t develop into a more serious reaction next time.
The only life-threatening food allergy is to peanuts
Not true – any food can cause a serious reaction known as anaphylaxis. There are, however, foods that are more likely to be life-threatening which include milk, egg, soy, fish, wheat, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.
An allergy to peanuts is the most common food allergy
It is true that peanuts are the food that is most likely to cause anaphylactic shock. However, it is not true that it is the most common allergy. Cow’s milk takes that prize.
Toddlers/pre-schoolers should never be given fish, eggs or peanuts
Actually, the exact opposite is thought to be true. Exposing young children to common allergen foods may, in fact, protect them from developing allergies. Fish and eggs, for example, should be tried when a baby starts on solids, and babies at high risk of developing a peanut allergy should try them (peanut protein) at four to six months. This is after they have tested negative for an allergy and should only be done under the supervision of a physician.