11 things you didn’t know about food allergies

Out of every 10 babies born today, one will develop a food allergy within a year. But that’s not the only startling fact you should know.

We all have friends and family members who are fussy eaters.

Or they may have decided they’re paleo, plant-based, keto, vegan or even pegan (part paleo, part vegan).

But for those living with a food allergy, avoiding certain foods isn’t a matter of choice – it can be about staying alive.

Food allergies now affect one in 10 Aussie infants and two in every 100 adults.

Here are 11 things you might never have guessed about food allergies:

  • One in 10 babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy before their first birthday.
  • Anaphylaxis is the name given to severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reactions that can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to foods you’re allergic to, such as peanuts.
  • You can suffer from exercise-induced food allergies. Strange but scientifically proven to be true! Some people who eat and then work out find that their increase in body temperature triggers allergic symptoms to food that can be as serious as anaphylaxis.
  • More than 170 foods are known to have triggered severe allergic reactions. However the “big eight” – milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, wheat and soy – are to blame in around 90 per cent of cases.
  • Meat allergies are unusual because, unlike other allergies, they usually take between four and six hours to manifest. Even more strangely, they most commonly affect people who’ve been bitten by a Lone Star (or “turkey”) tick, prevalent in the southeast of the United States.
  • Fruit allergies can sometimes be caused by an allergic reaction to pollen rather than the fruit itself. People with allergies to tree pollen will often have similar reactions to fruits that grow on them. These are usually confined to the mouth, throat and tongue and not too serious.
  • There is such a thing as a marshmallow allergy. If you’re allergic to this popular treat, it’s most likely the ingredient gelatin that’s causing your problems. Gelatin is also found in some gums, candies and frosted cereals.
  • More than 650,000 Aussies have a diagnosed food allergy.
  • Aquagenic urticaria is a rash caused by contact with water. According to this 2011 study, people who have this allergy can drink water but get itchy hives if they’re submerged in it. Not technically a food allergy, but we thought it warranted a mention.
  • Food allergies can develop at any age and many people remain undiagnosed or self-diagnosed. Children sometime outgrow their allergies and adults can develop allergies later in life after eating the same food without a problem for many years.
  • There’s no cure for food allergy – just careful management.

Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia is calling on people to “be aware and show you care” during Food Allergy Week from May 26 to June 1, by reading up on the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and on what to do in an emergency.

Written by Liz McGrath.