Are our fears about food allergies a bit nutty?

allegeryBefore we get into the detail of the article, I really want to thank the team here for letting me post here with them.  It means a lot to be able to get something published for my Personal Finance Blog at great site like this. To put the risks in perspective, you are twice as likely to drown in your bath than to die from any type of food allergy Nuts. It’s hard to get away from them these days thanks to fears about serious allergy, and the reaction of food manufacturers (may contain nuts), restaurants (nuts are used in our kitchens) and airlines (please don’t open your nuts). And they are in the headlines again this week following new research suggesting that dry roasting makes peanuts more likely to trigger allergies. Are they really that dangerous, though? Oh and guys – if you like what you see in the article so far, would you consider sharing my site on twitter or Facebook?  It would mean an awful lot to me! Around 10 people die every year in the UK as a result of some sort of food allergy (most have nothing to do with nuts) — to put the risks in perspective, you are twice as likely to drown in your own bath than to die from any type of food allergy. And despite the perception that children are most vulnerable, most of the fatalities are adults. A review of allergy-related deaths in the UK and Ireland during the Nineties suggested that only two children died throughout the whole decade as a result of eating nuts. That is two too many — and a potentially avoidable tragedy for all involved — but not quite the toll most people would expect. Reference: Men Style Part of the reason is that severe nut allergies are probably not as common as we once thought. One in 70 children is the statistic most often cited, but closer examination shows this is an estimate based on studies that have produced results ranging from 1 in 50 to just 1 in 1,000. As always, the real figure is likely to sit between these two extremes, and recent research suggests it also varies with age. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed allergies to be most common in young teenagers. After reviewing the medical records of three million people in the UK, researchers found that recorded diagnoses of serious nut allergies were rare in pre-school children and most common in 11 to 14-year-olds (1 in 100), before falling off again among those in their late teens. Whatever the distribution, peanut allergies are on the rise in all ages. There are a number of theories as to why but no clear winner. It was thought, for instance, that the ubiquitous use of peanut extract in everything from confectionery to cosmetics meant babies were being sensitised while in the womb and during the first few months of their life (nut proteins are expressed in breast milk). However, guidance that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid nuts appears to have had no impact and has now been dropped. Current advice suggests that women can now eat peanuts if they choose. However, they should try to exclusively breastfeed for six months and avoid introducing their baby to peanuts and other allergenic foods — such as other nuts, seeds, milk (other than breast), eggs, wheat and fish — until they reach this age. While some food allergies tend to develop slowly with symptoms that are easily confused with other problems (such as an upset stomach or flare ups of eczema), reactions to peanuts tend to be more pronounced and often come on after what parents believe to be their child’s very first exposure. Signs vary from an itchy red rash to collapse, loss of consciousness and to life threatening swelling of the lips, throat and airways. Untreated, a severe reaction typically results in death from cardiac arrest about 30 minutes after exposure, offering a very short window of opportunity in which to administer emergency drugs such as adrenaline and call for help. Once a severe allergy is confirmed, avoidance is obviously key but that is easier said than done with peanuts as extracts are hidden in so many foods. And it only takes a tiny amount to trigger a lethal reaction in those most severely affected. Peanut allergy may not be as common or as dangerous as widely thought, but it’s unpredictability mean that people are bound to err on the side of caution, and occasionally go a little nuts. If you are with someone having a severe allergic reaction: · Dial 999. If they are conscious lay them down and raise their legs (this helps maintain blood pressure) and ask about emergency drugs. · Adrenaline is the priority and most people with severe nut allergies will carry an auto-injector to be used in emergencies. If in doubt, inject. Better to over react than delay, and adrenaline used this way is safe. · Some people carry antihistamines too but these are much slower acting. · If the person loses consciousness apply normal first aid after giving the adrenaline. Q&A Q: My father has just been told that he needs a colonoscopy next week after his bowel cancer screening test came back positive. He is 66 and otherwise fit and well with no symptoms. How likely is it that he has cancer? A: The screening programme uses stool samples to look for hidden bleeding (faecal occult blood) which is a sign of bowel cancer, but most people who test positive turn out NOT to have the disease. A review of more than a million people in the UK screened using the stool test found that 1 in 50 tested positive for blood. Most went on to have a colonoscopy to look for an obvious source of the bleeding but, reassuringly for your father, cancers were only found in around 1 in 10 of them. And most of those were at a very early stage, making them easier to treat and leading to cure rates of more than 90 per cent following surgical removal (chemo and radiotherapy are not normally needed in early bowel cancer). The screening test can help prevent cancers too. Around a third of those who undergo colonoscopy are found to have benign growths (polyps) that could turn cancerous with time, and they can normally be removed during the procedure. This post was contributed by the who is a regular poster both here on their own blog.  You can catch them on twitter, facebook or even their very popular youtube channel.

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