Can Food Allergies Be Outgrown
A food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency every three minutes and approximately 200,000 people require emergency attention each year! And while it is well-known we can outgrow our clothes and personal preferences, is growing out of a food allergy possible?
Reported by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the prevalence of a food allergy in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. Further piggybacking on the overwhelming statistics, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency every three minutes and approximately 200,000 people require emergency attention each year!
What Is a Food Allergy?
Before jumping into whether or not they can be outgrown, it is important to clarify what a food allergy actually is. A food allergy is often confused with and mistaken for an intolerance, though there are vast and significant differences between the two. A food intolerance is predominately when the body lacks key enzymes to properly digest a food component. So in the case of lactose intolerance, the enzyme lactase is deficient and ultimately causes unpleasant digestive symptoms. Unlike a food intolerance, an allergy involves the immune system which identifies a food protein as an allergen, produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), and triggers an immune reaction. Milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, wheat, soybeans, fish and shellfish are of the most common food allergens. Following ingestion of the food, one may experience common symptoms of swelling, itching, rash, hives, cramps, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. While both conditions should not be taken lightly, an allergic reaction to food can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death without immediate attention.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing a food allergy can be tricky, as individuals can experience differentiating signs and symptoms to potentially different body systems. Nonetheless, it is imperative to consult a food allergist regarding suspicion of a food allergy and to never self-diagnosis one. During the appointment, allergists ask detailed questions regarding the history of allergy symptoms, along with underlying information regarding specific food intake. They also are likely to order a blood test and conduct skin prick tests to further make a well-informed and definitive diagnosis.
At this point in time, there is no identified treatment of a food allergy. The only way to avoid an allergic response is by avoiding the food itself and products that may be contaminated with it. It is important to pay close attention to food and ingredient labels, along with considering the assistance of a dietitian for additional safety tips. Individuals with food allergies should also keep an EpiPen® on hand as a precautionary measure in the case of a severe allergic reaction, an injection of epinephrine (or adrenaline) can be lifesaving.
Can Food Allergies Be Outgrown?
Simply stated, yes. But there is an interesting catch... Unfortunately for those diagnosed with a food allergy in adulthood, the likelihood to outgrow a food allergy is rare. But for children, the presence of a food allergy may not be lifelong. Based on a survey published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology, a little more than a quarter of children outgrow allergies at an average age of 5.4 years old; are more likely to outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, or soy compared to peanuts, fish, or shrimp; and the earlier the child's first reaction, the more quickly they are able to outgrow the allergy. Conversely, children displaying the most severe symptoms and diagnosed with multiple allergies were less likely to display lesser symptoms. But of all the food allergens, a peanut allergy is the most common, less likely to become outgrown, and tends to last a lifetime.
If you speculate you or your child has outgrown a food allergy, it is critical to consult with an allergist to safeguard the risk of inducing anaphylactic shock. Under careful supervision, the healthcare professional will then likely conduct a series of blood, skin, and oral tests to make an informed decision on whether or not you can safely introduce such food back into the diet.