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Kids outgrowing food allergies, and what do to in case of reaction

Nearly two-thirds of children with a food allergy will have outgrown it by age four, Australian research has found. But the prevalence of food allergies among Australian children is still remarkably high compared to other countries.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) has released the findings of a “robust” study conducted at the Australian Centre of Food and Allergy Research.

The HealthNuts study involving more than 5000 kids, recruited at age one, showed food allergy reduced from 11 per cent at age one to 3.8 per cent, or 1-in-25, at age four.

Outgrowing egg allergy was the main driver of this change, dropping from 9.5 per cent to 1.2 per cent. The prevalence of peanut allergy fell from 3.1 per cent to 1.9 per cent.

Lead author Dr Rachel Peters, from MCRI, says the study showed up to 50 per cent experienced symptoms of any allergic disease in the first four years of their life.

Asthma prevalence was 10.8 per cent, eczema was 16 per cent and hayfever 8.3 per cent.

Importantly, the study also identified risk factors for food allergy.

“We’ve found that children who have older siblings and children who have pet dogs early in life are less likely to develop food allergies,” said Peters.

Children born in Australia with Asian-born parents had higher rates of food allergies, she said.

It’s hoped the identification of risk factors will lead to potential intervention to protect kids from a condition that can be life-threatening. A severe allergic reaction to peanuts can cause anaphylaxis, a medical emergency that results in difficulty breathing and the swelling of the tongue and throat.

Participants of the HealthNuts study will be followed up at age six and 10.

The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Signs of severe allergic reactions
How to be allergy aware and help someone having a severe allergic reaction.

What are the signs? One or more of:

  • Dizziness.
  • Collapse.
  • Pale and floppy (especially in young children).
  • Swelling of tongue.
  • Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice.
  • Difficult breathing/noisy breathing.
  • Wheeze or persistent cough.
  • Swelling or tightness in throat.

What should you do to help?

  1. Lay person flat and raise their legs if possible (if breathing is difficult allow to sit).
  2. Administer adrenaline autoinjector (EpiPen).
  3. Call ambulance.
  4. Call their emergency contact.
  5. After five minutes, if no response or condition worsening, administer second adrenaline autoinjector. if available.

Other reminders:

  • Mild or moderate allergic reactions can quickly progress to anaphylaxis.
  • If someone with known food or insect allergy suddenly develops severe asthma-like symptoms, give adrenaline autoinjector first, then asthma reliever.
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