Food allergies: stop preconceived ideas


How to properly screen for food allergies?

Symptoms are still evident

False. If, sometimes, the symptoms immediately make one think of an allergy as in the case of swelling of the lips just after eating peanuts for example, most of the time, it is more complicated to read. Itching, allergic rhinitis, bloating, asthma, diarrhea… could very well be signs of an allergic reaction. Know that in younger people, food allergy is most often manifested by eczema. In addition, it is essential to recognize when these reactions occur. If it is systematically after taking the bottle, it is a clue. “It is therefore important to consult quickly and not to waste time trying other milks,” says Dr Plumey, nutritionist. Especially if there is an allergic ground in the family. “

Allergy and intolerance, it’s the same

False. They are different mechanisms. The allergy causes a reaction of the immune system with more or less violent manifestations in the minutes, even in the seconds which follow the ingestion of the food. On the other hand, in case of intolerance, the immune system does not come into play. The body does not manage to digest certain molecules present in the food and takes longer to manifest it, with less obvious symptoms. This is the case, for example, of children intolerant to lactose (milk sugar) who lack lactase, an enzyme essential for the digestion of lactose. Just like the gluten intolerant with wheat.

In younger people, allergens are less numerous than in adults

True. More than 80% of food allergies in children under 6 mainly concern 5 foods: egg white, peanut, cow’s milk protein, mustard and fish. In fact, allergies appear at the age when children start to eat such and such a food. “Thus, before the age of 1, the proteins in cow’s milk are most often involved. After 1 year, it is mostly the egg white. And between 3 and 6 years old, more often peanuts ”, specifies Dr Etienne Bidat, pediatric allergist. In addition, without really knowing why, food allergies affect children more.

A child can be sensitive to several substances

True. The body can react strongly to allergens of very different origins, but which are similar in their biochemical structure. It’s cross allergy. For example, a child may be allergic to cow’s milk protein and soy, or almond and pistachio. But sometimes the links are more surprising. One of the most common cross allergies associates fruits and vegetables with tree pollen. Like the cross allergy between kiwi and birch pollens.

If he is allergic to salmon, he must be allergic to all fish

False. Just because your little one is allergic to salmon doesn’t mean they are allergic to tuna. Likewise, after eating hake, a child may have a reaction that resembles an allergy (pimples, itching, etc.), but which, in reality, is not. This is called a “false” allergy. It may be an intolerance to histamine, a molecule found in some species of fish. Hence the importance of consulting an allergist to make a reliable diagnosis and do not unnecessarily remove certain foods from toddler’s menus.

Proper diversification is a means of prevention

True. Official recommendations recommend introducing foods other than milk between 4 months and before 6 months. We speak of a window of tolerance or of opportunity, because we noticed that by introducing new molecules at this age, the children’s organism develops a mechanism of tolerance towards them. And if we wait too long, he may have more difficulty accepting them, which favors the appearance of the allergy. These tips apply to all babies, whether or not they have atopic land. Thus, we no longer wait until the age of one year to give it fish or eggs when there is a family allergic ground. All foods, even those deemed to be the most allergenic, are introduced between 4 and 6 months. While respecting the baby’s rhythm, giving him one new food at a time. It also helps to identify possible reactions of intolerance or allergy more easily. 

My child may eat a small amount of the food to which he is allergic

False. In case of allergy, the only solution is to completely exclude the food in question. Because the intensity of allergic reactions does not depend on the dose ingested. Sometimes a tiny amount can cause anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening emergency. The allergic reaction can also be triggered by simply touching or inhaling the food. Likewise, you must be vigilant in case of allergy to eggs and do not use cosmetic products that contain them, such as certain shampoos. The same goes for sweet almond massage oils in case of peanut allergy.

Vigilance with industrial products!

True. Certainly, manufacturers must mention the presence of 14 allergens, even if the doses are tiny: gluten, shellfish, peanuts, soya… But on packaging, some terms are still obscure. Likewise, if gluten-free foods are stamped with the words “gluten-free” or with a crossed out ear, some products that were thought to be safe may contain some (cheeses, flans, sauces, etc.). Because in factories, we often use the same production lines. To get your bearings, surf the websites of the French Association for the Prevention of Allergies (Afpral), the Asthma and Allergies Association, the French Association of Gluten Intolerant (Afdiag) … And in case of doubt, contact the consumer service.

They never go away growing up

false. There is no fatality. Some allergies can be transient. Thus, in more than 80% of cases, allergy to cow’s milk proteins very often heals around the age of 3-4 years. Likewise, allergies to eggs or wheat can resolve spontaneously. With peanuts, for example, the cure rate is estimated at 22%. However, others are often definitive. It is therefore essential to reassess your child’s allergy by skin tests.

Gradually reintroducing food helps to heal

True. The principle of desensitization (immunotherapy) is to give increasing amounts of a food. Thus, the body learns to tolerate the allergen. If this treatment is used successfully to cure allergies to pollen and dust mites, on the side of food allergies, for the moment, it is mainly in the field of research. This process should be carried out under the supervision of an allergist.

At the nursery and at the school, a personalized welcome is possible.

True. This is the individualized reception plan (PAI) which is drawn up jointly by the allergist or the attending physician, members of the staff of the structure (director, dietician, school doctor, etc.) and the parents. Thereby, your child can go to the canteen while benefiting from adapted menus or he can bring his lunch box. The educational team is informed about prohibited foods and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction. 

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