Food allergies are on the rise rapidly worldwide. It affects 1 in 20 children and about 2 in 100 adults (ASCIA 2016). An allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a seemingly harmless substance (food protein in this case). The symptoms usually involve vomiting, wheezing, swelling, itching, hives, eczema, or in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Food allergy can also present itself in a less obvious way in infants suffering from colic, reflux, eczema, ongoing diarrhoea and poor growth.
The most common food allergens are cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, sesame, soy and wheat. Food allergies are commonly diagnosed in children under the age of 5 and most children outgrow the food allergy over time. However, allergies to peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish tend to persist into adulthood. If the food allergy develops for the first time in adults, it usually persists.
It is important that an allergy is properly diagnosed by your doctor or allergist/immunologist. A diagnosis is made based on clinical history, symptoms and scientifically proven allergy tests (skin prick test, blood IgE testing or supervised food challenges). Alternative practitioners offer unorthodox testing that are unproven and expensive (e.g. IgG test, hair analysis, kinesiology). These tests are unreliable and leads to unnecessary food restrictions. For more information about allergy testing, refer to this document.
Managing Food Allergies
When your child is first diagnosed with a food allergy, you are often given a long list of foods that needs to be avoided. It may be fairly straightforward if it is a single allergen such as peanuts. However, it gets very challenging when there are multiple food allergies involved. Children with multiple food allergies may experience food aversion, growth issues and malnutrition long-term if their diets are overly restricted. Parents often struggle to understand food labels, prepare appropriate meals for the whole family and special events such as birthday parties. They are constantly worrying about their child having accidental exposures to the allergen(s) at school or while on holidays.
How We Can Help You
Charlyn is a specialist in food allergies and she has over 10 years experience in helping children and adults manage food allergies in the hospital and community. She understands the stress and demands of having young children with food allergies. She will provide you with simple, practical nutrition advice that is easy to understand and implement. She will ensure that your child’s diet is nutritionally adequate and well-balanced.
Children with multiple food allergies may have negative experiences associated with eating and it can lead to food refusal or food aversion. This can be frustrating and stressful for the whole family. Charlyn has extensive experience in working with children and families to reduce stress at mealtimes and improve their relationship with food. She also works with other health professionals such as psychologists and speech pathologists using a team-based approach to assist your child.
During the consultation, we will conduct a comprehensive nutrition assessment to assess your child’s dietary intake, nutrition status and medical condition. We will offer you and your family support and assistance with elimination diets and food challenges. These are some of the information we cover:
- Meal and snack ideas
- Lunchbox ideas
- Recipe ideas and meal planning
- What to eat when breastfeeding a child with allergies
- Appropriate formula substitutes
- Label reading
- Avoiding accidental exposures and cross-contamination
- Normalising food allergies – eating out and travelling
- Allergy prevention (when and how to introduce solids, especially if another sibling has an allergy)