Words by Karen Kingham
If you don’t have a child or family member with food allergies, then you almost certainly know someone who does. Here are some good-to-know facts that can make it a little easier to understand this increasingly prevalent condition.
Like any allergy, an allergy to food is a reaction by the immune system to something it thinks is harmful. The severity of symptoms is often unrelated to the amount of the culprit food consumed, and reactions tend to occur quite soon after eating. In some cases, food allergy reactions can be fatal. Treatment involves strictly avoiding culprit foods.
The most common food allergies are to a handful of foods that include nuts (peanuts and tree nuts), sesame seeds, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish, wheat and soy.
What to look for
The first signs of a food allergy can vary greatly but may include skin rashes (eczema), hives, swelling of lips, eyes and tongue, breathing difficulties/asthma or tummy upset. The most severe type of allergic response is anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction. If your baby has trouble breathing or shows any sign of swelling of the lips or face after eating a new food, don’t delay in seeking urgent medical attention.
Being ingredient aware and label savvy is essential when there is a food allergy to manage. Australian food law requires labels to declare the presence of the common food allergens, and many contain statements on labels that warn of potential risk only, and so are best checked directly with the manufacturer.
Prevention versus cure
Breastfeeding before and throughout the time you introduce solids to your baby is thought to be the best thing you can do in the prevention of food allergy in children. Avoiding or delaying the introduction foods is not advised and may in fact increase food-allergy risk. There is no cure for a food allergy but children may outgrow them. This is especially so for allergies to egg and milk.
For more information, visit Better Health Channel at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.
Cooking For Kids With Allergies
Kitchen Angel baking mixes have been approved by Coeliac Australia to carry the Crossed Grain gluten-free logo, and the list of products to choose from is a little bit of heaven: almond, hazelnut, pistachio, almond and citrus, roast hazelnut and cocoa, or almond milk. Each mix comes as a nut-based but gluten and dairy-free dough, to which you can add your own choice of wet ingredients, so they’re great for kneading, rolling and shaping with the kids in the kitchen. Kitchen Angel baking mixes are priced from RRP $18 to $28 per kilo. Visit www.kitchenangel.com.au.
Do you have a children’s birthday party coming up? Get on top of who can eat what with these ingeniously sweet labels from Allergy Riders. Available in baking cups and food flags, each coloured item is labelled with either “I’m Dairy Free”, “I’m Egg & Dairy Free”, “I’m Dairy & Gluten Free”, “I’m Gluten Free”, “No Eggs Here”, “No Nuts Here” and “I’m Vegan”. So no matter how many allergies or intolerances you need to manage, it’s simple to get on top of things with this clever system. Baking cups are priced at $6.95 for 50; the food flags are $5.95 for 25. Visit www.allergyriders.com.au.