Experts have warned that Australia has one of the highest allergic disease rates in the world. Have you considered whether you or a family member is an allergy sufferer or at high-allergy risk?
With up to 40% of children having allergic sensitisation and many going on to develop allergic diseases, allergy figures have more than doubled in Australia over the past two decades.
Professor Mimi Tang, paediatric immunologist and allergist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne spoke to RESCU about these shocking figures:
“Rates of allergic disease have increased in all countries with a westernised lifestyle,” Professor Tang said. “So it seems that the western lifestyle is an important factor driving high rates.”
Though western lifestyle has been linked to high allergic conditions, the actual pinpointing factors as to why are unclear.
“The factors in the western lifestyle that are responsible are not entirely understood,” Professor Tang said.
“Possibilities include reduced exposure to a broad range of microbes in early life, this is a change that has occurred over the last 100 years.
“Also reduced UV exposure, reduced Vitamin D, reduced intake of omega 3 fatty acids in fish and reduced intake of vegetables that contain prebiotic type fibres.”
There are a few common allergies to watch out for.
“The most common in Australia would be food allergies to egg, milk and peanuts,” Professor Tang said.
“Overall though specific allergies to inhaled allergens such as pollen and house dust mites are the most common.”
If you are unsure whether your child suffers from allergies or just a sniffly nose, Professor Tan said there are some tell-tale signs to look out for.
“Acute allergic reactions can be present with hives, swelling and difficulty breathing.
“Rarely, the circulation can also be involved, causing collapse or a pale floppy infant.”
Unfortunately prevention is limited, however, Professor Tang recommends being mindful during the early stages of a child’s life.
“Breast feed for at least six months, introduce complementary foods from four to six months, avoid cigarette smoke exposure in pregnancy and early life. For high risk babies – those with a family history of allergic disease in a parent or sibling – if the mother can’t breast feed then a hydrolysed (low allergy formula) may be recommended in the first four to six months of life.”
Professor Tang shared with RESCU her five top allergy tips:
1. Note that common symptoms are hives, swelling and vomiting.
2. See a doctor if you suspect food allergy in yourself or your child.
3. Once you are diagnosed with a food allergy you must take care to avoid the food allergen.
4. Be careful when eating outside of the home.
5. Make sure any asthma is well controlled.
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