Article - Food allergies - a growing epidemic

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.

(1) Reference:
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Comments | 13

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    Hi everyone, just a quick note to say I'm sorry to hear about all the poor children with allergies. its a horrible thing, but I think there is enough evidence out to say that modern foods are not very good for us. todays food is so full of chemicals that it is not really even food anymore, even the fruit and veges aren't spared, bad enough if we eat it but to give it to children is even worse, and over a few generations the poisons in the food will change things in our bodies and create more problems, eg the rate of cancers is rising quickly with young children also affected. grow your own fruit and veges as much as you can, in a pot if you have no garden or buy them from a spray free stall at a growers market, and eat lots of green veges just cause they're good for you smile
    By Louise Sunde on Fri May 20, 2016
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    Thanks Mark smile
    By Melanie Rands on Thu May 29, 2014
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    Thanks to the allergy-wise team at ecostore for all your support of food allergy sufferers. Food allergy is a very serious issue for a growing number of Kiwis and Food Allergy Awareness Week gives it some much needed focus. Thanks for getting in behind it!
    By Mark Dixon on Wed May 28, 2014
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    I agree. I have to carry an epipen when I'm racing as I have exercise induced anaphylaxis. They don't last very long for how much they cost. Even just reducing the cost would be beneficial if full subsidy is out of reach.
    By Anna on Fri May 23, 2014
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    After many many problems and trips to two allergy specialists, my son seemed to be developing more allergies. We now cook all our own meals from scratch after we discovered at home that he is very allergic to Canola oil. Canola makes him extremely ill, more research needs to be done with product, and it appears in almost every product on the supermarket shelves. We used to live right by farms that grew the rape seed they use for this so we also suspect that he probably was affected by it whilst I was pregnant with him. He is also extremely allergic to grass, pollen and privet amongst other things. I wonder how many other kids have underlying issues that have not been picked up because the sensitivity tests don’t actually test for canola/rape seed? I know my son is ill and has eaten it as he gets hives, difficulty in breathing and swollen lips etc, which is followed with several days of an upset stomach and diarrhoea.
    By Kay Livingstone on Fri May 23, 2014
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    Good question - you could take a look at the allergy NZ website here:
    By Melanie Rands on Thu May 22, 2014
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    Great to see EcoStore still supporting Allergy NZ and also to see the info you've included in this blog - the more info that can get out there, the better! Just seeing the comments about the crippling cost of EpiPens - have you seen and signed the petition to Pharmac about this? If not, it is on the Allergy NZ website
    Good luck to everyone living with allergies and you're on the right path by investigating and learning!
    By Natalie Lloyd on Thu May 22, 2014
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    Thanks for sharing that with us Stacey, it sounds like you were lucky to have the problem identified.
    By Melanie Rands on Thu May 22, 2014
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    How do you diagnose food allergies? I've been getting sort of hives the last 2-3 months and think its probably food related. have kept sort of a food diary and wondered if tomatoes were the issue…but have been eating them again this week no problem. (I wonder if its a difference between real tomatoes and the rubbish hothouse ones in the market now!)
    By Bron on Thu May 22, 2014
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    You're welcome, I learned a lot about food allergies myself while researching this topic and had no idea about the huge cost of epipens.
    By Melanie Rands on Thu May 22, 2014

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