Our topic of discussion in this week’s lunch was Nut Allergies. It all started with my friend at work reading us an article about how ordering a take away in an Indian Restaurant, cost the person his life. In spite of specifically ordering a nut free curry, he had his Anaphylaxis attack. This led us to a discussion about this Tree nut allergy. I knew about nut allergies but was not aware of the extent to which people suffered. Here are few examples that my friend shared:
- There was a person in his school who had severe allergy, which meant that if we accidentally spilled our peanut butter on the table, wiped it away with a damp cloth, and the person happens to touch the table and keep the finger in mouth, he would immediately have a severe Anaphylaxis attack
- Oil whose source is nut can cause uneasiness in breath when applied can result in severe rashes, etc.,
- Passing by a place which has aroma of nuts strong in the air can cause breathing issues
There are a lot of theories around this question. Few common theories are:
- Typically immune systems treat nuts as safe. But scientists believe that early and heavy exposure to nuts can result in immune system treating it as a potential harm. Early here means even during breast milk days!
- Some scientists believe that Vitamin D, which body needs sunlight to make, plays a vital role in building our immunity. Since kids’ exposure to sunlight is being limited these days, the immune system seems to be reacting adversely to these nuts.
- Another theory that’s been discussed but has little proof is the change in weaning practices that have occurred over the last three decades. We put a lot of emphasis on avoiding solid foods and weaning babies a little bit later in life, sometimes at 2-to-3 years old.
The one that’s gotten the most publicity is called the hygiene hypothesis. It hypothesizes that we’re too clean and, therefore, our immune system doesn’t have very much to be concerned about. Instead, it becomes mischievous and gives us allergies. It’s been very well noted that consumers in societies where hygiene is not that high seem to have lower prevalence of food allergies.
Although there is a common conception that allergies are mostly Western diseases, allergies are now becoming a global problem.
In comparison to the western countries where 40% of a population is said to have allergic reactions, 20% of Indians are said to have developed some sort of food-based allergic reactions. Source: Dr.Mahesh PA, Director at Allergy Asthma Associates in Mysore, India
Allergen immunotherapy, also known as desensitization or hyposensitization, is a medical treatment for some types of allergies. It is useful for environmental allergies, allergies to insect bites, and asthma. Its benefit for food allergies is unclear and thus not recommended. Immunotherapy involves exposing people to larger amounts of allergen in an attempt to change the immune system's response.
It is generally advised during the following scenarios:
- Symptoms are severe.
- The cause is difficult to avoid (such as grass pollen).
- Medications don’t help or cause adverse side effects.
- People prefer to avoid medications.
Allergy fix Q&A answers a lot of questions around this topic.
As we discussed, my colleague kept reiterating that it is a shared responsibility. A person with food allergies must be extra cautious and avoid dining at unknown restaurants and avoid takeaways.