How to Manage Allergic Reactions

Recently, a five year old boy suffered a severe allergic reaction to undeclared tree nuts in the Coles brand hollow milk chocolate easter eggs.
April 15, 2014

Recently, a five-year-old boy suffered a severe allergic reaction to undeclared tree nuts in the Coles brand hollow milk chocolate Easter eggs.

This raises the question: How can you protect yourself and your family against known and unknown food allergies?

How Common Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies are very common and becoming more common worldwide. Australia has the dubious honour of having one of the highest rates of allergies in the world.

What Happens When You Have An Allergic Reaction To Food?

A food allergy is triggered when the human immune system reacts to a foreign substance, usually a protein that is eaten, breathed or touched, as if it were toxic.

More seriously, people with an allergy, like the boy in the recent Easter egg scare, can go into a life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock if they consume products containing the allergen, even in tiny amounts.

So as a consumer, how can you be more mindful when shopping for your family?

Seek Advice From Your Doctor

You might be falsely attributing your food allergies to a cold or seasonal allergy (see a list of food allergy symptoms below).

It’s best to talk to your doctor so he can thoroughly evaluate your symptoms and work out the cause of the physical stress on your body. Skin prick tests or blood tests can help your doctor confirm which substances you are allergic to.

Once you’ve determined that you do in fact have a food allergy, the easiest way to treat a food allergy is to remove the allergen from your diet. Sometimes, in the case of milder food intolerances, the human body can tolerate the food if it is avoided and gradually reintroduced.

As always, follow your doctor’s advice and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure.

Learn All The Synonyms For The Foods That You’re Allergic To

Foods can often hide under different names on labels, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with all of the names to avoid nasty surprises.

For example, lactose often hides under the labels 'milk' or 'lactose', while 'salicylates' are more commonly known as strawberries or tomatoes. Here are some others:

  • Milk protein: milk, non-fat milk solids, cheese, yogurt, calcium caseinate, whey, lactose
  • Egg: eggs, egg albumen, egg yolk, egg lecithin
  • Gluten: wheat, barley, rye, triticale, wheat bran, malt, oats, cornflour, oat bran
  • Soy: soybeans, hydrolysed vegetable protein, soy protein isolate, soy lecithin

As Seen With The Coles Crisis, Food Labels Do Not Offer 100% Protection

Although we are lucky to have Food Standards Australia New Zealand as the food label watchdog, it’s best to pair your new knowledge of food synonyms with awareness of food allergy symptoms so you can seek medical help immediately if a crisis occurs.

Symptoms of food allergies start to occur approximately 30 minutes or less after consuming the food.

Common symptoms of food allergies are:

  • Itching, burning and swelling around the mouth
  • A runny nose
  • Skin rash
  • Hives
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Breathing difficulties, including wheezing and asthma
  • Vomiting and nausea

With anaphylaxis, symptoms can develop within seconds or minutes. Symptoms include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Hives
  • Low blood pressure
  • Mental confusion
  • Rapid pulse
  • Skin that is blue from lack of oxygen or pale from shock
  • Swelling in the throat that may be severe enough to block the airway
  • Swelling of the eyes or face
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing

Ultimately, you can minimise the impact of food allergies on your family’s lives by staying vigilant and learning more about your particular allergy. Knowledge is power and with power, you can stay on top of your life.

For More Information on Food Allergies, You Can Visit:

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy:
http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/food-allergy

Food Standards Australia New Zealand:
http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/foodallergies/allergies/Pages/default.aspx

NSW Food Authority:
http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumers/problems-with-food/allergy-and-intolerance