Back when I was in high school, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich pretty much every day for lunch. I’d never heard of anyone allergic to peanuts then, and I wasn’t relegated to some table far away from all the other kids so I wouldn’t accidentally kill anyone with my sandwich.
In fact, I’d never heard of food allergies at all until my mom’s cousin suggested to her that she stop eating wheat. Apparently, the allergy ran in our family and it put my mom’s nerves on edge (it was either the wheat or my adolescence, and there was nothing we could do about the latter, so it was worth a shot).
A couple weeks after she quit eating wheat, cold turkey, we all saw a difference. She was calmer, considerably less on edge all the time.
So it was with great interest that I read this article over at The Village Stream.
It made me realize how lucky I am that neither of my little guys has a food allergy (none that we know of, at least), and how difficult it is to diagnose it.
Pam has run a home-based day care for 20 years and recalled a couple of children early on who had sudden behavior changes; on the surface, the behavior was in reaction to pain these children were feeling, but it turned out it was a milk allergy that caused the pain.
One of her own children also had a food allergy, and Pam learned that her son would crave what he was allergic to until it completely left his system.
So they stopped buying chocolate milk, chewable vitamins (many children are allergic to the dyes and other additives in them) and other items he was allergic to. Keeping the culprits out of the house entirely was the only way to ensure her son wouldn’t suffer.
From her own experiences, Pam has realized that picky eaters might not just be picky; they might have an allergy.
The National Institutes of Health is home to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which has an excellent overview (download the PDF) of food allergies and, interestingly enough, the most common foods that cause allergies in adults vs children are slightly different.
Adults: shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts), fish, eggs. Children: Eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts.
In addition, adults generally have their allergies for life once they become allergic. (My dad, in his mid-60s, suddenly became allergic to peanuts. The man had eaten peanut butter sandwiches nearly every day for decades!) It’s not uncommon, however, for children to outgrow milk, egg and soy allergies, though, for whatever reason, peanut allergies tend to stick around.
Also interesting is that it’s the foods most commonly eaten that cause the most allergies. In Japan, rice allergies are not uncommon; in Scandanavia, many have an allergy to codfish.
I know that I’ll continue to try to get my little guys to try any food once, even if they have turned their noses up at it multiple times. After all, rejecting food they haven’t eaten is no sign of anything except toddler independence.
But behavioral changes and inexplicable pains or other reactions could, indeed, be a sign of an allergy.
Associated Press photo by Mark Lennihan
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