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In Australia food allergies affect approximately 1 in 10 infants and 1 in 100 adults. Some of these allergies can cause severe and life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis, while some people only experience minor effects such as a rash or itching. While the prevalence of food allergies is increasing at alarming rates, researchers continue to try to understand why this is happening. Due to this increase it is becoming more and more important for people to understand the risks of allergic reactions and how to manage them.
The foods that trigger 90% of food allergic reactions in Australians include:
While peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish and sesame allergies are usually lifelong, children often grow out of milk and egg allergies.
It is important that people with anaphylaxis and those caring for them know how to avoid anaphylactic triggers, can quickly identify symptoms and know how to respond if a reaction occurs.
If you have anaphylaxis and you come into contact with a food you are allergic to, you may experience the following symptoms:
When it comes to life threatening food allergies, all stages of food preparation are important. People with anaphylaxis can be so sensitive to certain substances that even slight traces can cause a severe allergic reaction. If you have experienced an anaphylactic reaction from a particular type of food or you have a family history of severe food allergies, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will organise for you to get tests so that you know which foods to cut out of your diet completely.
If you have been prescribed with an auto-injector you should carry it with you at all times so that when you experience the early signs of anaphylaxis you can administer this shot immediately.
People with anaphylaxis rely on food labels and food outlet staff to provide accurate information about food preparation and content. This information determines whether food is safe for them to eat, however in many cases it is not 100% guaranteed. When it comes to food allergies, the risk can never be completely eliminated. It is therefore important to have your adrenaline auto-injector with you at all times and know what to do in the case of an emergency.
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If someone’s symptoms and signs suggest anaphylaxis you should follow their Anaphylaxis Action Plan or take the following steps:
For more information about anaphylaxis read Guideline 9.2.7 by Australian Resuscitation Council.
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