We continue our series on allergies and this time we shift the focus on food allergies. This topic was top of mind for a mom who sent us an email question via our free iPhone app. She wrote “could my 9 year old daughter be allergic to strawberries as she gets a stomach ache and sometimes vomits after she eats them? She has not had problems eating strawberries before.” This is very interesting because I have been reading & reviewing several articles on food allergies and their diagnosis.
One was in JAMA (I saved the May 2010 issue for research) and another was in the March issue of Consultant for Pediatricians. Both of these articles emphasized that there continues to be a great deal of confusion and lack of uniformity for diagnosing food allergies.
Food allergy is also not uniformly defined, but according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), it is an “adverse immune response that occurs on exposure to a given food and is distinct from other adverse responses to food such as food intolerance.” Statistics show that somewhere between 1%-2% of the population may have food allergies. It is also unclear if food allergies are on the rise, as data on this is conflicting.
With all of that being said, it sounds more like this child has developed an intolerance to strawberries rather than an allergic response. It would be important to get more history such as what else she has eaten with the strawberries when this occurs, if the symptoms are always the same and are there any other problems associated with the ingestion. Specifically, does she complain of hives, itching, swelling of her tongue, lips or difficulty breathing? Does she have problems with any other foods?
I also wonder if she has the same symptoms if she picks fresh strawberries or if they are from the store or if they are frozen. In other words, like so many things in medicine a good history is probably the most important part of this “strawberry story”.
If she continues to have problems and her symptoms, this sounds more like intolerance than a true allergic reaction she can just avoid the strawberries (not much fun, especially in the summer).
She might also check with her pediatrician about doing a blood test for IgE antibodies to strawberries. A food intolerance would not have an increase in IgE antibodies as it is not an allergic reaction. If confusion persists she could be referred to a pediatric allergist for further evaluation and even an oral food challenge.
There continues to be a great many studies surrounding the etiology of food allergies, and I will keep you posted as new information is presented.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.