AAAAI 2008 Notes: A Look at Common Food Allergens

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common food allergensDr. Robert A. Wood, MD FAAAAI, told attendees that cow's milk allergy is not going away. In fact, it looks like it's getting worse. Back in 1990, the first big study on cow's milk allergy concluded that most children become tolerant by the age of three; however, more recent studies suggest that the usual course of developing tolerance lasts longer – that the majority of children outgrow the allergy by age six. Similar findings apply to egg allergy in children. Dr. Wood also pointed out that high specific IgE levels suggest that a child is less likely to outgrow the disease.

Dr. David M. Fleischer, MD, spoke about peanut allergy and tree nut allergy. In the past, it has generally been recommended that those with peanut allergy should avoid tree nuts – and vice-versa – because of the high potential for cross-contamination (in food processing equipment, for example). Dr. Fleischer shed light on recent studies which suggest a potential for cross-reactivity among peanuts and tree nuts – so that's another reason to avoid all nuts if you're allergic to one type of nut.

Current research suggests that the prevalence of peanut allergy (and likely tree nut allergy) is increasing. About 20% of children with peanut allergy will outgrow the allergy; and about 10% of children with tree nut allergy will outgrow the allergy. Among those who outgrow peanut allergy, recurrence is more common among individuals who rarely eat peanuts; it is less common among those who eat peanuts frequently. Dr. Fleischer pointed out the there's a seven percent chance that the younger sibling of a child with peanut allergy will also develop the allergy.

Dr. Sami L. Bahna, MD DrPH FAAAAI, gave a very interesting presentation about fish allergy. ‘Fish allergy is not universal,’ he said; that is, some people are allergic to certain types of fish but not others, and some people react to certain parts of the fish but not others. For example, some people react to dark meat but not white meat, and some react to the shell of shellfish but not the meat. Cooking methods can also affect the allergenicity of fish.

If you are allergic to one type of fish, there is an 85% chance that you are allergic to another type of fish. The fish species that are most prone to cross-reactivity include cod, salmon, pollack, and herring.

To learn more about food allergies, see our Food Allergy Solution Guide.

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