The prevalence of food allergies is on the rise. You may have personal experience with food allergies amongst your friends, family, or even your own kids. I decided to ask my friend David Jeong, M.D. to offer some insight on the topic of food allergies. Dr. Jeong grew up in Iowa, attended Northwestern University for his undergraduate work, the University of Iowa for medical school, the University of Michigan for his residency in Pediatrics, and the University of Washington for his fellowship training in Allergy/Immunology. Here is his response to my questions: Thank you Dr. Jeong!
What are some of the common ways food allergies present?
Hives, eczema, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, abdominal cramping, nasal congestion, watery/red/itchy eyes, cough, and wheezing.
a) Hygiene hypothesis: lack of early childhood exposure to (allergens)...leads to an imbalanced immune system, skewing its development more toward allergy.
What are the most common food allergies? Is there a mechanism behind why certain foods are more allergenic than others?
What is the role of blood tests in identifying food allergy?
We have to distinguish whether a person is "positive" without ever having eaten that food versus being "positive" but eats the food regularly without any symptoms.
If the former and the test is done by blood testing...then it is strongly recommended that the patient consult with an allergist. (Allergists use) certain predictive value cut offs based on the medical literature, and these cut offs show that even if a person has a "positive" result it may not be necessary to avoid that food.
If the latter, keep eating the food!! The test is not perfect, and...antibodies can be picked up by testing that have nothing to do with true clinical reaction.
The current evidence (suggests that) exposure to a food early and often seems to be more allergy preventive than delayed and infrequent exposure early in life. (i.e. consider introducing peanut containing foods at age one rather than age three).
The only action that has been shown to provide any benefit is if the mother can breastfeed for at least the first four months of life. This could lessen the chance that this child develops allergies down the road.
What resources do you recommend for parents who have kids with allergies?
The handouts from UpToDate for patients (beyond the basics) provide very accurate information. Just search "UpToDate Food Allergy for patients."
This holiday season, you may be asking yourself, "What should I bring to the holiday party?" Being sensitive to the prevalence of food allergies can ensure that you bring something that everyone can enjoy. In the following clip, I show you an easy dish that is sure to be a hit at your next holiday party:
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Here is a link to the recipe I used in the above clip:
Happy New Year!