Allergies: Facts and misconceptions

Food allergies and intolerances have escalated in recent years, and the numbers continue to rise. Although food allergies have always been around, they have not always been diagnosed and unfortunately, due to fatal reactions over the last few years, allergies have hit the headlines several times.

Food allergies are often referred to with disbelief and misunderstanding. Often allergies are dismissed as a new “fad diet” because the person wants to lose weight or in some cases, it is assumed that the food is a personal preference and that consuming a small amount won’t do any harm; this is not the case as food allergies can often be life-threatening. If a person does not have a friend or family member with food allergies, they don’t realise the daily struggles and frustrations that a person with allergies must face on a daily basis.

There are many misconceptions about the topic of food allergies which adds to the problems that sufferers face. It is often thought that only children suffer with food allergies which they will then grow out of as an adult, however this is not the case. Children often grow out of milk and egg allergies under strict medical supervision, however peanut, fish and sesame allergies can all cause severe reactions and are usually an allergy for life.

The medical profession is now more aware of symptoms than previously, and it is understood that food allergies can affect anyone at any age, with many people being diagnosed later in life.

It is often assumed that peanuts and nuts are the most dangerous allergies. These allergens are the most well-known, however it is easier to eliminate peanuts and nuts from meals, with most schools being nut-free which reduces the risk of reactions.

The most difficult allergen to manage is milk. This is because it is much more difficult to eliminate milk as it is often a “hidden allergen” in many products.

There are 14 allergens which must be declared when present in food, however there are an increasing number of allergy sufferers who have reactions to allergens which are outside the “top 14”. This list is increasing all the time and includes foods such as strawberries, apples, peaches, tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes, and peppers.

There is also a significant increase in the number of allergy sufferers reacting to pea protein. This allergen is often a major source of protein in vegan and vegetarian diets and is causing more reactions as more people adopt these diets.

Sometimes it is assumed that because the allergen is not listed as one of the “top 14,” the allergen does not cause severe reactions, which is incorrect.

Aquagenic urticaria is a rare condition when the sufferer reacts when the skin meets water. The sufferer reacts with a severe rash (urticaria). If a person can react to water – a person can react to anything!

Jacqui McPeake, Senior Allergen Advisor, Allergen Accreditation

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Published on January 5th, 2022

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