Although food allergies occur at any age, it affects children the most. Food allergies, one of the most common health problems among children in Turkey, vary according to the geographical region. In the Aegean and Marmara regions, children are more likely to have a milk allergy, whereas, in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia and Eastern Anatolia regions, egg allergy is often seen in kids. Children's body reacts more to food than adults. Food allergies affect 6 to 8% of children under 3 and 3% of adults. If children do not get treatment, food allergies sometimes intensify as they grow. Even allergies can develop very rapidly and have fatal consequences.
Dr. Birol Saygı from Beykoz University said when all age groups are taken into consideration, food allergies are most common in children. “According to the age group, the most common food allergy at the age of 0-2 is milk, while children at the age of 2-5 mostly have milk, eggs, shellfish, nuts, fish, and flour related allergies. As the child grows, seafood and dried fruits become more important,” he added.
Is it about genetics?
Dr. Birol Saygı noted that food allergy might develop to rare foods such as rice, meat and sesame. “The findings observed in children with food allergy are loss of appetite, vomiting, stool changes, eczema, asthma, and growth retardation,” he said, listing the different nutritional habits of the people and changes in the consumption of the food depending on the way it is processed and cooked as the reasons for the geographical features of food allergy. “While all foods can cause allergies, allergic reactions are most triggered by fish, shellfish, peanuts, and walnuts. Problematic foods for children include eggs, milk, peanuts, wood nuts, soy, and wheat,” he continued. “Symptoms of food allergy are most common in infants and children but may occur at any age. Although allergies tend to spread in families, it is impossible to predict whether children will genetically suffer from food allergies and whether siblings will be in a similar situation. For example, some studies show that younger siblings of a child with a peanut allergy can also be allergic.”
There are allergen-free foods!
According to Dr. Birol Saygı, the market for allergen-free foods is growing. Food producers are acting to prevent food allergies in the first stage. Saygı said consumers are also becoming conscious to prevent allergic reactions. “Until just a few years ago, health authorities advised parents to reduce the use of potential allergens such as eggs, milk and peanuts in their children's diets. However, recent studies have shown that the inclusion of small amounts of such foods from a very early age can have a strong protective effect,” Dr. Saygı noted. “For example, it has been found that early and frequent consumption of peanut butter leads to a significant reduction in the risk of peanut allergy compared to the total avoidance of peanuts.”
Read the labels
Professor Saygı advised consumers with food allergies to read food labels carefully, informing that food labels list 14 common allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, mustard, eggs, lupine, milk, fish, gluten, celery, sesame, sulfur dioxide, mollusks, and crustaceans. “For products that do not contain allergens, the best practice is to prevent cross-contamination and to ensure that consumers know whether they are present on the food recipe. Reading labels for food-allergic consumers is an important phenomenon to avoid exposure to allergic risks,” he further stressed.
The most dangerous reaction is anaphylaxis!
Food allergy is an abnormal reaction to a food triggered by our body's immune system. According to Dr. Birol Saygı, the most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis, which can occur a few minutes after exposure to triggered food, can be fatal. Dr. Birol Saygı said that our body's immune system keeps us healthy by fighting infections and other hazards that are harmful to health.
“Food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a food substance, identifies it as a hazard, and triggers a protective response,” Saygı said. “In the event of anaphylaxis, the most dangerous form of food allergies, life-threatening threats that can disrupt your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and affect your heart rate occur. Anaphylaxis should be treated immediately with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).”