More and more kids are being diagnosed with food allergies – a troubling trend that has been on the rise for the past 15 years.
Studies estimate that about 5 to 8 percent of children have a food allergy. And one major culprit is peanuts, with one in every 50 kids having a peanut allergy.
While it remains unknown exactly why food allergies are on the rise, several theories have tried to explain it:
1. The “hygiene” hypothesis.
Simply put, we’re way too clean, and we keep our children away from normal germs that help strengthen their immune system.
2. Delaying the introduction of high allergen foods.
The delay (which is not prevalent in other countries) might not prepare the developing immune system for new foods.
3. Changes in the food supply.
The way food is grown might impact the potential for an allergic response.
Regardless of the cause, kids and parents needs to know what to do when a food allergy turns up. And importantly, know the differences between food sensitivities, food intolerance, and a true food allergy.
Test your knowledge with our food allergy quiz, and learn to recognize potential food-related issues impacting your family’s health.
Think you figured out all of the answers? Scroll down to see if you are correct!
And the answers are...
You are "allergic" to any food that gives you problems. Truth or myth?
MYTH! An allergy is more than the body rejecting food. It involves the immune system.
- Allergies cause the following symptoms: Vomiting and/or stomach cramps, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling of the tongue, pale or blue coloring of the skin, dizziness or feeling faint and anaphylaxis.
- If you do not have an allergic reaction, your body may just be intolerant or sensitive to the food.
- The eight most common food allergies are: Milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
Stomach issues may be a result of a food allergy. Truth or myth?
MYTH! Stomach issues are a sign that your body is not digesting food properly, not that you have an allergy.
- Stomach issues (bloating, cramps, gas) caused by digestive problems are not life threatening.
- Foods that commonly cause stomach issues are: Milk, gluten, wheat, legumes, soy, garlic, onions and sweeteners.
Once a child is diagnosed with a good allergy, it can never be outgrown. Truth or myth?
MYTH! Many childhood allergies can be outgrown.
- 80% of kids outgrow milk, eggs, soy and wheat allergies. (Milk and egg are the most commonly outgrown allergies).
- Only 10-20% of children outgrow peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies. (Peanut and tree nut allergies are the most difficult to outgrow).
Allergic reactions get worse each time you have one. Truth or myth?
MYTH! It's possible that reactions can get worse, but they don't always.
- Allergic reactions are unpredictable.
- Even if you have never had an anaphylactic reaction it is a good idea to carry an epi pen.
- 80% of the time, reactions will be similar to ones you've had in the past
- Reactions can also become less severe.
Madelyn Fernstrom is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.