Listen: Professor Katie Allen talks about allergies on Hope Breakfast.
New research into allergies has shown that two thirds of Aussie kids will outgrow their allergy by their fourth birthday. But while that’s great news, the same research also showed most Australian adults don’t know the signs and symptoms of a food intolerance.
Professor Katie Allen, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, chatted to Hope 103.2’s Laura and Duncan about the difference. She said although it’s easy to spot an allergy in your child – “their face blows up, they’ve got hives or welts, they start to cough and wheeze” – identifying an intolerance in a child is harder.
“Intolerances are reactions that may not be as obvious,” Dr Allen said. “The child might have some symptoms related to the gut like vomiting, bloating or diarrhoea, or the child is miserable. When the child is older it’s easier [to pick] because they can say ‘I’ve got tummy pain’ or ‘I feel sick’, but when they’re babies it’s a bit more difficult.”
The best way to start to identify a food intolerance, says Dr Allen, is to take the food out of the child’s diet for two weeks, see if the symptoms resolve, and then try putting the food back in again, and “if you get the same symptoms then it’s time to see a doctor”.
Only test one food at a time.
The Good News: Many Children Outgrow Allergies
A recent study of 5300 children has shown that early-onset allergic reactions to egg and cows milk, are likely to be resolved with time. In fact 80 percent of children who react to these foods will outgrow the allergy by the age of four.
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Nut allergies are a bit tougher. Only about 20 percent of nut-allergic kids outgrow their allergy by age four. Thankfully though, there are good treatment therapies being developed, that Dr Allen says will hopefully be available in the next few years.
Build Up Your Healthy Gut Bacteria
In the meantime, the best way to protect against food intolerances is to have a healthy diet, and build up your healthy gut bacteria. Organic foods are particularly helpful. Dr Allen recommends fresh fruit and veggies, majoring on non-sprayed organics, because they will contain “healthy microbiome” or “good bacteria”.
“We’re starting to understand that the microbiome, the gut bugs that we all carry, modulate or change in reacting to training in the immune system,” she said. “There are opporutnities for tolerance to develop.”