Allergy problem still on the rise

More Tasmanian children than ever are being diagnosed with food allergies. MANIKA DADSON talks to a specialist about the common allergies and warning signs .

TASMANIAN food allergy specialists say the number of children being diagnosed with food allergies has increased by a ‘‘tremendous’’ amount.

Launceston’s Rose Cottage Medical Centre principal Victoria Smith said common allergies that cause anaphylaxis remained the same, such as egg, cow’s milk, peanuts and crustacean.

‘‘But the number of people who have got them is now colossal,’’ Dr Smith said.

‘‘It is very common and we don’t know the reason why.’’

According to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, food allergy affects 10 per cent of children aged to 12months and between 4 and 8 per cent of children aged up to five.

The society also states that hospital admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children from birth to four have increased five-fold in Australia over the past decade.

The Department of Health and Human Services could not provide a specific breakdown of Tasmanian figures, as results include insect bites and other allergy reactions.

Dr Smith said many children grew out of their food allergies.

‘‘The majority are free of egg allergies by the time they are five, but some people will keep that and it is usually raw eggs,’’ she said.

She said a lot of people never grew out of their peanut allergies.

Research is being conducted across the country to find out why Australia is seeing such a rapid rise in food allergy cases.

Dr Smith said one theory was a lack of vitamin D.

‘‘Research has found the further away from the equator that you live, the more likely that the child will have allergies,’’ she said.

Other theories include too much exposure to antibiotics and the super clean theory, which questions whether vaccinations, antibacterial soaps, airtight doors and windows are responsible for the allergy increase.

Dr Smith said the food allergy situation would no doubt get worse; ‘‘unless we find a reason why and something to reverse the trend’’.

Dr Smith said the most important thing for parents to be aware of were warning signs.

She said early signs while a child was breastfeeding included failure to thrive, eczema and recurrent diarrhoea.

‘‘The earlier we can get involved then the baby is healthier, therefore less stress on the parents,’’ she said.

Dr Smith said there were many food allergy specialists across the state and ‘‘we are really lucky in Tasmania because our waiting lists aren’t too long’’.

‘‘I have people fly in from Queensland and Melbourne to get assessed,’’ she said.

Dr Smith said the number of people living with food intolerance was also on the rise.

Victoria Smith

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