How common are food allergies?
If you’re anything like most people, you probably assume that they’re common, but not THAT common. You occasionally hear about a child who is allergic to nuts or coconut, or sometimes milk.
A new study has found that nearly 6 million children in the United States suffer from food allergies. The study analyzed 40,000 households in the US that had children less than 18 years old. This 6 million number accounts for about 8% of the child population in the United States.
Even more interesting is that of that 6 million, 30.4% had multiple food allergies, not just one. And 38.7% had a history of severe reactions to their trigger foods. The most commonly reported allergies according to US Bio Tek, were:
Milk with (21.1%)
Shellfish with (17.2%)
Frighteningly, the number of children with food allergies has been on the rise. What can account for this? One contributing factor is that parents who have allergies are more likely to give birth to children with allergies. Of course, this is not the sole cause. The rise in allergies is a combination of genetics, environmental effects, and nutrition.
What causes allergic reactions?
Did you know it’s not necessarily the food that is making the body sick, so much as the body making itself sick?
By definition, an allergy is typically a response by the immune system to a food or substance that is not usually harmful to the body. The immune system protects the body against unknown or foreign substances – called antigens – by producing antibodies to fight them. Usually, the immune system pays no attention to substances that are not harmful, such as food, and only fights things that are harmful, like infections. When the body cannot tell the good from the bad is when an allergic reaction occurs. The body produces histamine to fight these ‘harmful substances’, but the histamine itself produces the symptoms of allergies, such as stuffy nose, racing heart, hives, etc.
Immunoglobulin E or IgE is an antibody found in the body, and is very common in Type I allergies, or hypersensitivity. It is very powerful in triggering the most powerful immune responses. When IgE levels are heightened, it is a good sign that the body is attacking something- be it a food or infection. Because of this, IgE levels are a good way to detect allergies that the body might have.
Several different exposure tests can be conducted via blood testing to target allergies and determine the effect that they have on the body. The allergin-specific IgE test can also be used in immunotherapy or desensitization to see if a child has outgrown a specific allergy.