New research has found that the number of Australian children being hospitalised with potentially fatal food allergies is increasing.
The research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, examined hospital admissions from 2005 to 2013 and found a 50 per cent jump in children with anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction. Attacks involve more than one body system often affecting the skin, respiratory, gastro-intestinal and cardiovascular systems. Anaphylaxis must always be treated as a medical emergency.
Murdoch Children’s research Institute’s Professor Mimi Tang told ABC News the highest rates of hospital admission were in younger children (under 4 years), but there was a 110 per cent increase in rates in older children (ages 5-14).
“What we think is happening is that more children are getting food allergies but of concern, these allergies tend to be peanut, tree nuts and shellfish that you don’t grow out of,” she said.
Lead researcher Dr Raymond Mullins told Sky News that one of every 500 hospital admissions of children aged 5-14 were now to treat anaphylaxis.
Researchers said they were not sure if the cases are newly diagnosed children with food allergies, or whether children were just suffering more serious attacks, but certain risk factors are starting to emerge.
“These might include exposure to environment risk factors, perhaps causing inheritable epigenetic changes by activating or silencing genes important to immune regulation,” Dr Mullins said.
The hygiene hypothesis could also be a factor too.
Dr James Li from the Mayo Clinic in the US said the hygiene hypothesis proposes that childhood exposure to germs and certain infections helped the immune system develop, teaching the body to differentiate harmless substances from the harmful, that trigger asthma.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, tightness of the throat, difficulty talking, coughing, dizziness, pale skin, swelling of the face, hives or welts and adnominal pain or vomiting.
There are tests you can have to find out whether you have allergies, such as blood tests for allergen specific IgE or skin prick testing. If you do think you might have an undiagnosed allergy, see your GP.