As the incidence of food allergy rises, so does the number of individuals living with or in fear of developing, multiple food allergies. It is therefore unsurprising, food allergy sufferers and their families so commonly raise questions about the likelihood of additional food allergies emerging.
While research into the development of multiple food allergies remains ongoing, several patterns have already been identified, associated with cross-reactivity and co-reactivity between food proteins (ASCIA, 2014).
Cross-reactivity refers to clinical allergy to similar proteins present in related foods. For example, in individuals allergic to:
– Cow’s milk: ~90% will be allergic to goat’s milk;
– Cashew: most will be allergic to pistachio;
– Fish: ~75% will be allergic to other fish;
– Prawn: most will be allergic to other crustaceans (e.g. crab, lobster);
– Peanut: ~5% are allergic to another legume (e.g. soy).
Co-reactivity refers to clinical allergy to proteins in unrelated foods. For example, in individuals allergic to:
– Cow’s milk protein: 10% are also allergic to soy;
– Egg: 30% also have peanut or tree nut allergy (ASCIA, 2014).
Understanding potential cross-reactivity and co-reactivity between foods may be useful to the assessment, diagnosis and management of multiple food allergies.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that the potential for clinical allergy associated with cross-reactivity or co-reactivity, does not serve as an indication that every individual with food allergy need routinely exclude additional foods from their diet. Though necessary for some, advice should always be sought from a medical professional skilled in food allergy, as avoiding foods unnecessarily can be nutritionally, socially and emotionally detrimental. Allergy testing may be useful to identify whether or not it is appropriate potentially allergenic foods be excluded from an individual’s diet.
At the Australian Allergy Centre, all consultations with our doctors are Medicare rebatable. Skin prick testing for food allergens is available. This panel covers cow’s milk, goat’s milk, egg, peanut and a variety of grains, seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables. A separate assorted nut panel is also available.
If you are concerned you or your child are at risk of multiple food allergies, contact the Australian Allergy Centre today on 1300 MY ALLERGY.
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy [ASCIA], 2014. Food Allergy Clinical Update. Accessed February 28, 2016,http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/pospapers/ASCIA_HP_Clinical_Update_Food_Allergy_2014.pdf