Food allergies – don’t swallow everything you hear: May is Food Allergy Awareness Month

London, Ontario – When it comes to food allergies, rampant misinformation is far too easily digested. From food sensitivity testing to allergy prevention in babies and children, incorrect information is actually contributing to an increase in food allergies.

For Food Allergy Awareness Month in May, allergist Dr. Samira Jeimy with the Allergy and Immunology Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, is debunking some of the most common food allergy myths.

More than 2.6 million Canadians, including nearly 500,000 children, are living with food allergies that need to be managed daily. In the last five years, research into the growing prevalence and incidence of food allergies is revolutionizing the approach to prevention, diagnosis and treatment. For example, says Dr. Jeimy, where the advice was to avoid feeding children peanuts until age three or four, the thinking now is to expose children at low risk of the allergy (those without a family history, eczema or egg allergy) to peanuts by age six months to prevent the allergy from developing.

According to Dr. Jeimy, the following myths are most in need of busting to reduce the incidence of allergies as well as spare individuals from unnecessarily, and sometimes dangerously, restricting their diet. Visit St. Joseph’s website for Dr. Jeimy’s fulsome responses to these myths

1. MYTH: Food sensitivity testing can diagnose allergies

FACT: A commonly advertised – and expensive – test called immunoglobulin G (IgG), tests for up to 400 foods but there is no evidence to support its use to diagnose food allergies or predict future adverse reactions.

2. MYTH: Infants are at high risk of severe food allergy reactions

FACT: Teenagers and individuals with asthma are actually at highest risk of allergy reactions. Infants typically have mild reactions on first exposure to a food.

3. MYTH: Allergenic foods should be avoided in a baby's diet until they are 3 years old.

FACT: There is high-quality evidence that introducing peanut and egg as early as four to six months of age is actually protective against food allergies.

4. MYTH: Allergists can't test infants for food allergies.

FACT: Allergists see patients of all ages, starting with newborns, especially if there is eczema or a concern for food allergy based on family history.

5. MYTH: A woman’s diet in pregnancy can trigger allergies in her baby.

FACT: Current guidelines do not recommend pregnant women avoid any foods. It’s also important to know that a maternal diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, foods containing vitamin D, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats is associated with lower rates of children developing allergies.

6. MYTH: The size of your skin test reaction or allergy blood test level determines the severity of the food allergy.

FACT: Your clinical history is the most important factor, not the magnitude of the test results, in assessing the severity of an allergy. As well, the severity of a future reaction can’t be predicted based on the extent of positive test results for a food allergy.

Dr. Jeimy available for interviews on May 6, 7

To arrange, please contact:

Dahlia Reich, Communication & Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Health Care London
(519) 646-6100 ext. 65294, pager 10117

About St. Joseph’s Food Allergy Clinic

St. Joseph’s Food Allergy Clinic is part of the Allergy and Immunology Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. At the clinic, children and adults with any kind of food allergy (referral required) can be definitively diagnosed using the latest, evidence-based approaches, including food challenges where the person is exposed to the food and monitored.

For certain food allergies, such as peanut, the clinic offers oral immunotherapy under very strict and careful supervision of allergy specialists. Learn more about St. Joseph’s Allergy and Immunology Program

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research.

Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.

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