Helping Children

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Respiratory Tract and Food Allergy

Upper and lower respiratory tracts can be affected by food allergy.

1 Chronic rhinitis is the most common respiratory tract manifestation of delayed pattern food allergy.

2 Recurrent serous otitis media (“ear infections”) may be solely or partially due to food allergy.

3 Large tonsils sometimes with upper airway obstruction, may be caused by food allergies.

4 Lower respiratory tract disease manifested by chronic coughing, wheezing, pulmonary infiltrates, or alveolar bleeding may also occur. Lower respiratory tract involvement is generally associated with a greater delay in onset of symptoms and with a larger quantity of allergen ingestion than chronic rhinitis.

Food allergy should be considered when there is a history of prior intolerance to a food in childhood or of symptoms beginning soon after a particular food was introduced into the diet. It is an important consideration in patients who have chronic respiratory tract disease which does not respond adequately to the usual therapeutic measures and is otherwise unexplained.

Delayed patterns of food allergy are quite different from the more obvious immediate food allergic reactions. Delayed patterns of food allergy generally go unrecognized. Allergy skin tests do not show this problem nor do blood tests for antibodies such as RAST or ELIZA Delayed patterns of food allergy are responsible for causing specific diseases such as asthma, otitis media and eczema and also cause ill-defined illness patterns that can involve any part of a child’s body Food antigens are proteins that make their way through human bodies in a remarkable fashion. Consider the long and improbable path of milk proteins through a mother's gut, into her blood, through her liver, out into her breast milk, through her infant's gut mucosa and into the infant's nasal mucosa to cause Rhinitis, the lung to cause asthma, or the skin to cause eczema.

There are many potential paths from mouth to target organ for food antigens to follow. Every tissue of the body can manifest a delayed food allergic response. Some activity may be noticed in minutes but the onset of bigger problems is delayed hours to days.

General symptoms such as flushing, fever, aching, fatigue, are followed hours later by localized target organ activity, usually some form of inflammation, manifest as pain, swelling, heat in the target organ. There are many ways for food problems to interfere with a child's normal functioning and to promote disease. We assume that several problems interact in a complex manner to produce the symptoms and dysfunction that we seek to remedy.

The book air and Breathing is a comprehensive guide to airborne problems and respiratory disease.

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More about Milk Allergy.