Food allergies - a growing epidemic
Do you know what cows milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat and soy products have in common? These are some of the foods most likely to cause a food allergy, according to the Allergy New Zealand website.
Food allergies are an epidemic affecting up to one in ten kids under the age of five in New Zealand. Staggering statistics!
Symptoms of food allergy can include hives, itching, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea and in some cases, it can even cause potentially life-threatening symptoms (anaphylaxis), either by breathing difficulties and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Although the reasons for food allergy are not fully understood, there are some noticeable trends; children of parents with allergies have a higher risk of being affected and environmental factors also play a part. These factors include pollutants, excessive hygiene, stress and lack of Vitamin D. (1)
And the effects on families of having a child with food allergy are significant. Constant vigilance is required to help reduce the risk of anaphylaxis. Some parents may have to delay returning to work because of the extra time needed to find and prepare safe food, as well as treat eczema which many food allergic children also have.
According to Allergy New Zealand, these effects are compounded in New Zealand by the lack of specialist services outside of Auckland, leading to long waiting times before parents can get an accurate diagnosis or advice on management of their child’s condition.
A critical issue for many at risk of anaphylaxis, as well as their families and communities, is the lack of funding for adrenaline auto-injectors.
Anyone diagnosed at risk of anaphylaxis from food or insect venom (bee and wasp) is prescribed an auto-injector and recommended to have with them at all times. However in spite of repeated approaches to Pharmac over the past decade, the Government’s pharmaceutical funding body continues to decline funding.
Allergy New Zealand is continuing the campaign for funding created by Wellington parent, Helen Richardson who says, “It is estimated 1 in 10 children born in New Zealand will develop food allergies and many of these children will have multiple food allergies. A significant number of these children will experience an anaphylactic episode triggered by a food allergen and will be prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector. This is a critical life saving treatment but many kiwis can not afford to fill or renew prescriptions for this treatment and my campaign is about ensuring this inequity is address as a matter of public health policy.”
Do you suffer from a food allergy? Have you got any recipes or tips to share? We’d love to hear them.