Food Allergy Awareness Week

This week is Food Allergy Week (17-23 May) and it is important that we all know what to do if a reaction happens, how to minimise the risk of a reaction and to understand and support family and friends living with food allergies.

It took me about ten years of suffering to discover I had allergies to both wheat and soy. Which subsequently led me to choosing my paleo lifestyle

My soy allergy is the more severe of the two - with a reaction occurring within minutes of consuming it. If I have just the tiniest amount of soy milk, soy sauce, tofu or any other direct soybean product I will literally be in agony. Very quickly. I remember going to a new popular Ramen restaurant with some work colleagues once and before I left the restaurant I was literally bent over in pain. 

Over the years, I managed reactions with over the counter IBS related medication but nothing really worked properly. Over a six-month period, I underwent a series of medical and food related tests under the guidance of an excellent clinical immunologist and allergy specialist. 

From my experience, the consumption of processed foods and leading a busy lifestyle can make it very hard to work out what may be causing sickness and/or allergic reactions in our body. You really have to listen to your body and if you find it hard to work out, please see a specialist and get tested.

Food allergy now affects 1 in 10 infants* and about 2 in 100 adults. The most common triggers in childhood are egg, milk, peanut and tree nuts. Other common triggers include fish, shellfish, sesame, soy and wheat. 

Anaphylaxis is a generalised allergic reaction, which often involves more than one body system (e.g. skin, respiratory, gastro-intestinal and cardiovascular). A severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis usually occurs within 20 minutes to 2 hours of exposure to the trigger and can rapidly become life threatening.
Knowing what to look for is very important, especially when it comes to children who may not be able to advocate for themselves when a reaction is occurring. Here are the signs and symptoms to be aware of:
Mild - Moderate Reaction

  • Hives, welts or body redness
  • Swelling of the face, lips, eyes
  • Vomiting, abdominal pain, tingling in the mouth

Severe allergic reaction- ANAPHYLAXIS
  • Difficult/noisy breathing
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Swelling or tightness in the throat
  • Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
  • Wheeze or persistent cough
  • Persistent dizziness or collapse
  • Pale and floppy (in young children)

Ninety percent of allergic reactions are caused by: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. However, any food can trigger anaphylaxis. It is important to understand that in some people even very small amounts of food can cause a life-threatening reaction. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.


A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. When we eat a food containing that protein, our immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, triggering symptoms that can affect breathing, one's gastrointestinal tract, skin and/or heart.
Symptoms of food allergy may include; swelling of the lips, face and eyes, abdominal pain, vomiting, hives, swelling of the tongue, breathing difficulty, or a sudden drop in blood pressure. If left untreated, these symptoms can be fatal.
Avoidance of the food is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Adrenaline is the first line treatment for severe allergic reactions and can be administered via an autoinjector called the EpiPen® or the Anapen®.
Approximately 10 people die from anaphylactic reactions each year in Australia and some of these may have been triggered by food.


For more information and training check out the below links:

* Osborne et al. Prevalence of challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy
using population-based sampling and predetermined
challenge criteria in infants. J Allergy Clin Immunolol 2011; 127: 668-676
Please feel free to share any personal stories you have about food allergies below so we can all be better informed.


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