Suspect an Allergy?
There are several ways in which a formal food allergy diagnosis can be made, all should be made through an allergy specialist doctor, preferably for children a paediatric allergy specialist. There are several NHS centres across the UK that now have paediatric allergy doctors and nurses, there is also a rise in the amount of general pediatricians who have a specialist interest in food allergy.
Once you are seen by an allergy specialist they are likely to test your child with a skin prick test, using a small amount of liquid onto the forearm, a small prick is used to introduce the allergen into the top layer of skin. If your child is allergic to the allergen a small hive will appear within 15-20 minutes. If not, no hive will appear. By using this test you will be able to leave the appointment with an understanding of your child’s allergies as the results will be discussed with you before you leave. Skin prick testing is very safe, but must always be carried out by the trained doctors or nurses within the allergy department.
There is also a blood test that your doctor may request, this is commonly called a RAST test, this result will take longer (anywhere between a week to three weeks), both of these tests are used as a guide, and must be discussed with medical staff.
An allergic reaction can occur after a child has eaten something, and the symptoms of food allergies will generally show within 10-15 minutes or up to 2 hours after the food has been consumed. The reaction can be mild with a few hives (white itchy lumps), urticarial rash (red, inflamed rash) or swelling of the lips, eyes or face. The reaction may become more severe and involve lethargy, drowsiness or difficulty in breathing. If any of these symptoms occur you should always seek further medical advice either through your GP or local A&E department.
There are several ways in which a formal food allergy diagnosis can be made; all should be made through an allergy specialist doctor, and for children, preferably a paediatric allergy specialist. There are several NHS centres across the UK that now have paediatric allergy doctors and nurses, there is also a rise in the amount of general paediatricians who have a specialist interest in food allergies.
Food allergies and food intolerances can be triggered by many things; in theory, any food can cause a food allergy. However, just a handful of foods are to blame for 90% of allergic reactions to food in the UK. They are:
- cereals containing gluten (including wheat, rye, barley and oats)
- crustaceans (including crabs and prawns)
- molluscs (such as mussels and oysters)
- nuts (including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts)
- peanuts (groundnuts or monkey nuts)
- sesame seeds
- sulphur dioxide or sulphites
Labelling rules mean that when any of these ingredients are intentionally added to pre-packed foods they must be listed on the label.
In adults, most allergic reactions are to peanuts, nuts, fish, shellfish and wheat.
Food allergies and food intolerances are both types of food sensitivity. When someone has a food allergy, their immune system reacts to a particular food as if it isn't safe. If someone has a severe food allergy, this can cause a life-threatening reaction. This means that people with food allergies, particularly in the case of a peanut allergy, need to be extremely careful what they eat.
Food intolerance doesn't involve the immune system and is generally not life-threatening - but if someone eats a food they are intolerant to, this could make them feel ill or affect their long-term health.
Food allergies in children are becoming more common in the UK, with between 2.2% - 5.5% of children suffering their first allergic reaction in the first year of life (Du Toit 2009). The most common food allergies in children are cow’s milk, hen’s egg, wheat, soya, peanut, tree nuts, sesame and kiwi.