Web Only ArticleMay 20, 2015

Kids, Allergies and Gluten Sensitivity

Recent research is giving us a clearer picture of the prevalence of gluten-sensitivity and allergies in children.

Dietitians are key partners for parents when their children are diagnosed with a food allergy, new research shows. A group of mothers who took part in focus groups revealed that the time immediately after a food allergy diagnosis was the most anxiety-provoking. But as moms worked with dietitians, they grew to better understand their child’s food allergy and learned how to keep their youngster safe.

In addition, dietitians helped the moms create a nutritionally complete diet and promote normality and independence for their children. Findings were published in December 2014 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Other recent findings shed light on food allergies and gluten-sensitive adolescents in Europe:

• Nannies and Food Allergies: Almost all nannies who took part in an online survey about food allergy recognized the condition as potentially life-threatening. However, only 58 percent of nannies who cared for food-allergic children had self-injectable epinephrine with them at all times and 46 percent felt uncomfortable using epinephrine in an emergency. In addition, 30 percent of nannies thought it was acceptable to pick an allergen out of a prepared meal before giving it to an allergic child and 19 percent didn’t always wash their hands after touching food allergens.

Results underscore the importance of food-allergy training, as well as communication between parents, physicians, nannies and other caregivers.

The study was published in September 2014 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

• Rising Numbers: One in 10 inner-city youngsters has a food allergy, according to a new National Institute of Health-funded study. This latest estimate is a stunner because researchers used a strict definition of food allergy, not a self-report which tends to over-estimate allergy’s true occurrence. What’s more, the high prevalence included just three food allergens—peanuts, eggs and milk.

Overall, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says about 5 percent of U.S. kids under age 5 has a food allergy. Findings call for more research with inner-city children to help identify modifiable risk factors (like breastfeeding) to curb the skyrocketing incidence of food allergies.

• UK Adolescents and Food Allergies: A new survey from the UK reveals alarming findings about adolescents and food allergy. Although most of the 188 teens and tweens said they tried to avoid foods they knew they were allergic to, fewer asked about ingredients when eating in restaurants or at friends’ houses. And fewer than half carried their auto-injector at all times.

In total, just 16 percent of the respondents were classified as fully compliant with managing their food allergy by the research team. Being a member of an allergy support group and having an anaphylaxis management plan were associated with better compliance. The study was published in January 2015 in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.

• Gluten Sensitivity in Children: Numerous studies describe non-celiac gluten sensitivity in adults but few have homed in on children with the disorder—until now. Researchers from the University of Bari in Italy examined a series of 15 children who didn’t have celiac disease or wheat allergy but had clear-cut evidence of a relationship between eating wheat and the development of symptoms.

Abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, headache and fatigue were common. Half of the children had antigliadin IgG antibodies and half had the genetic marker associated with celiac disease, DQ2. Biopsies of their GI tracts came back normal or nearly normal. Finally, no differences in markers of nutritional, biochemical or inflammatory indices were detected between these children and a comparison group of kids with GI disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.

Researchers say these findings support the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity in children. The characteristics observed in these children closely overlap those documented in adults. Results were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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