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Written by: Marcus Shaker, MD, people often ask me, Nobody ever had food allergies when I was growing up, so why are there so many now? Its true food allergies are a lot more common than they used.
Currently nearly one in ten kids will have a food allergy.
Thats a big change from a decade ago.
Experts still dont know all the reasons why, but we think it may have something to do with the types of gut bacteria babies have when they first try new foods, and when these new foods are first tried. You may remember your pediatricians past advice to avoid possible allergens until two or even four years of age, but this recommendation has completely changed.
We now know that introducing possible food allergens like peanut protein early as early as 3-4 months can actually decrease the risk of peanut and other food allergies.
But there are some caveats: babies with eczema or egg allergy may need to have allergy testing first and babies need to have foods given in forms that are safe, so they wont choke (the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends actual nuts and seeds. Symptoms of allergy can occur during or right after a meal, and can include coughing or trouble breathing, rash or hives, vomiting or diarrhea, and other symptoms that can be even more severe.
Sometimes symptoms occur later.
There are conditions that can mimic food allergy, so correct diagnosis is as important as timely follow-up with an allergist to safely identify the many patients who may outgrow their food allergies in time. Food allergies can be life-threatening, so food allergens need to be carefully avoided.
The Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection ACT (falcpa) which took effect in 2006 went a long way to help people living with food allergies because it requires major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy) discharge in packaged FDA-regulated. However, food allergic individuals must still be vigilant because not all allergens are subject to falcpa and not all foods are FDA-regulated (i.e. Non-packaged restaurant foods, meat and poultry products, and others).