Robert is a normal, fun-loving, energetic kid with lots of friends and caring parents. He is a class leader with exceptional organizational skills for his age. He is smart and willing to assist his classmates with subjects they find difficult but that he has mastered. All of this appears to put Robert at the head of his class and his future. But Robert suffers an aggravating food allergy that limits what he can eat. Unfortunately, his allergy is grain-related: gluten, a naturally occurring substance in wheat and in many processed foods we regularly consume. Robert has a severe reaction to gluten.
The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 40% of children suffer one or more of a number of food allergies. Fortunately, most childhood food allergies are overcome naturally as they grow through adolescence to adulthood, but there are some, and Robert may be one of them, who may never grow out of their allergic reactions.
Common Food Allergies and Symptoms
Food allergies are usually exhibited by reaction to consumption, and sometimes even just tactile contact, of fish and shellfish, tree nuts (typically, almonds, pecans and walnuts), peanuts, wheat, soy, cow’s milk and eggs. Allergies are the immune system’s reaction to proteins in the typical foods as listed above. Each incident of exposure to these proteins may cause an increasing severity of reaction to the point that hospitalization may be necessary to treat the symptoms. Allergic reaction may be so rapid and severe that its onset may lead to death. This severe reaction is called anaphylaxis. While the incident of allergies is high, anaphylaxis currently occurs in less than two percent of the world’s population, but this incidence is growing and alarming professionals who watch the incidence of allergies in children and adults.
Symptoms which point to a reaction to allergens may exhibit as a runny nose, itching skin and eyes, skin rash, constricted airways to the lungs, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and anaphylaxis.
Treatment of Allergies
Fortunately, the treatment of allergies is the same as their prevention: avoid contact and consumption of the affected food. This is usually deceptively simple. Unfortunately, in Robert’s case, and all those who suffer reaction to gluten, it is difficult in the extreme. Avoiding typical wheat bread is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many processed foods that use wheat, and, therefore, gluten, in their recipes, even if only as a filler and not an essential ingredient, that it is virtually impossible to purchase processed foods without scrutiny of their ingredients list. Sometimes, only the last resort of contacting the manufacturer to specifically inquire if gluten is included in their recipes will assure that the processing did not include gluten.
The marketplace has recognized this severe situation with gluten and manufacturers have reacted with specification that some of their food products are gluten-free. Flour is now readily available that is gluten free. However, the incident of reaction to gluten is still low compared to the unaffected population. As a result, virtually all gluten-free products are more expensive than their counterparts.
Robert will likely have difficult reactions to gluten throughout his life. If he is prudent and watchful, he should be able to live his life almost without concern, continuing the advantages he has always enjoyed of above average intelligence, leadership and compassion, all outgoing qualities that will have friends seek him for his advice and companionship. And just maybe, in his lifetime, science will achieve the breakthrough that will eliminate his allergic reaction, allowing him a life of unfettered freedom of choice among the wide variety of the world’s foods.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.
For more information and for advise about your children’s food allergies, please visit the allergy section of Healthline.