More than 2.6 million Canadians are living with food allergies, and with this being Food Allergy Awareness Month, doctors at St. Joseph’s Health Care are reminding the public they shouldn't swallow everything they hear when it comes to food allergies.
At the age of three, Luke Straatman is already no stranger to food allergies. His mom Kelly says, “He’s allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy and sesame."
They started noticing the first signs of a food allergy around eight months old, when Luke was introduced to dairy products.
“We noticed a rash staring to form on his arms so that was sort of the first inclination that there was something to be concerned about," she says.
Luke is not alone. Approximately 500,000 children in Canada suffer from a food-related allergy.
Dr. Samira Jeimy, an allergist at St. Joseph's, says, “In North America and other developed countries rates of food allergies are rising.”
There are several theories as to why the numbers are climbing, she adds, one of them being the delayed introduction of allergenic food in babies.
“The earlier you introduce at least peanuts and eggs the better...when you expose yourself to a food through the gut your body actually makes something called tolerant antibodies that prevent allergies.”
Jeimy says Introducing those foods to babies as early as four to six months is recommended, and adds that the belief infants are at higher risk of severe reactions is a myth.
“The riskiest group tends to be adolescent, pre-pubescent males with asthma.”
She says the key is for people to always talk to a medical professional first when it comes to a suspected food allergy
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s important to try to find credible information in the sea of information that’s out there.”