Are you really allergic? Clearing the air about food allergies - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

FOX Medical Team

Are you really allergic? Clearing the air about food allergies

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

You say no to nuts. Steer clear of shellfish. Can't tolerate eggs, or anything with wheat. Are you allergic, or just sensitive to certain foods.

Atlanta Allergy and Asthma's allergist Dr. Stanley Fineman says the answer isn't so clear-cut, "Because it's not easy to differentiate between a true allergy and a true sensitivity."

Dr. Fineman says even people who aren't truly allergic to something can still experience powerful symptoms when exposed to an irritant, such as smoke, or perfume, or a fragrant product. Fineman explains, "Triggers like that can trigger symptoms that could be just as severe as somebody who has a true immunological allergy.

So, what about food allergies. A lot of people say they're allergic to wheat.

Dr. Fineman says true wheat allergies are very rare. It's more likely a gluten-sensitivity, "Which is not an allergy and will not come up on an allergy skin test. It's usually handled by the gastroenterologists, and typically manifests with GI or gastro type symptoms when they eat things with gluten."

Something else that probably won't trigger a true allergic reaction? Artificial dyes in food. Dr. Fineman says he's heard of people reacting to them, "But, there's never been a good, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, or research report of any association with these specific dyes and severe, anaphylactic -type reactions."

And there are lots of questions about what young children should and shouldn't eat. For years, pediatricians warned parents of toddlers no eggs, no peanuts or peanut butter, no shellfish. Fineman says that advice is changing.

Most experts now think allowing children to try new foods, allows their body to build up a tolerance to them.

The new recommendations? Dr. Fineman says, "You should nurse the child, if you can, or give formula, and then between four and six months of age, then you start (introducing) whatever foods you eat. Including eggs, including peanut butter, including whatever it is you would eat in your diet."

That won't guarantee your child won't ever have an allergic reaction. But introducing foods early, Fineman believes, can help a child's body learned to tolerate – not fight back – against them.

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