Allergy versus Intolerance
It’s important to note that there is a difference between an allergy and an intolerance. An food intolerance is often mistaken for an allergy, and can have a variety of symptoms, often originating in the gastrointestinal tract. Intolerances do not involve the immune system, and are usually caused by an inability to digest or absorb certain foods, or components of those foods.
An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance. Symptoms can vary widely in type and severity. With food allergies, it is usually the proteins in foods that cause a reaction. There are eight types of foods that are believed to cause 90% of all food allergies. They are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
Are allergies more common today?
In a word: Yes. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reported an increase in food allergies of about 18 percent from 1997 - 2007, especially among children. Current numbers estimate that 5-6% of children have food allergies. The reason(s) for the increase in allergies among kids isn’t clear, and many theories exist.
One possible explanation for the rise in diagnosis of food allergies is an increase in awareness. Parents and physicians may be more likely to consider a food allergy diagnosis these days when, years ago, people may have attributed a rash or vomiting as just common illness. It didn’t always occur to people to consider food as a cause. Others attribute the increase in food allergies to the changes we’ve made to the way we grow and process foods.
One thing we do know is that most children outgrow their food allergies to milk, egg, soy, and wheat by the time they are 10 years old, and often before 5 years of age.
It is estimated that about 85% of children who are allergic to milk or eggs will outgrow their food allergy, and just about all children who are allergic to soy or wheat will outgrow their allergy, too.
According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, most children will outgrown their food allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat between 5 and 10 years of age. It’s estimated that about 85% of children with allergies to milk or eggs will outgrow them, however, not all allergies are likely to be outgrown. Only about 10-20% of kids will outgrow their allergies to nuts, fish or shellfish, and therefore, these allergies are usually lifelong.
If you think your child has a food allergy, it’s important to get an allergy test done from your doctor. Eliminating foods from your child’s diet without a proper diagnosis may compromise their nutritional intake. For more information, visit www.foodallergy.org.