One in 20 children between ages 10 and 14 has an allergy, and researchers say it is important people understand the reaction their bodies could have as they age.
Liam Wray was just a toddler when his parents, Chris and Lisa Wray, discovered he had an allergy.
“He had an allergic reaction to pistachios — he was given some — and he came out all in hives, and he was finding it quite difficult to breathe.”
From that scary moment, Liam Wray discovered he had a reaction to other nuts, too.
Now, as a 14-year-old, the Melbourne youth carries an EpiPen and antihistamines with him everywhere he goes.
“I get, like, really tingly in my throat. Like, it’s very itchy, but it’s like an inside, like in-your-throat itch, and you can’t actually get rid of it. And then I’ll start to feel sick.”
His parents have worked hard to ensure he is independently aware of the risks.
But now, thanks to participating in a landmark study at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, he has some uplifting news.
“I used to be allergic to hazelnuts and almonds, but I’ve grown out of being allergic to them — which is good, because I can have Nutella and stuff now.”
The study assessed 15 food allergies of 10,000 children between ages 10 and 14 to find out both how common allergies were and the cause and scale of the reactions.
Lead researcher Professor Katie Allen says her team discovered one in 20 children had an allergic reaction to food.
“There’s what we call the transient food allergies and the persistent food allergies. So the transient food allergies are the early-life ones, like cows’ milk and egg allergy. They’re more likely to be grown out of. We know that 80 per cent of them will grow out of it by age 5. But this has now confirmed what we thought clinically, that children with nut allergy are more likely to have persistent problems.”
Professor Allen says it highlights the importance of patients being retested as they advance into secondary school and beyond to better understand the severity of their condition.
“Children with nut allergy are more likely to have lifelong allergies. They’re also more likely to have anaphylaxis. And, unfortunately, the fatalities are more likely to be associated with nut anaphylaxis.”
As researchers work towards a treatment, the benefits of getting tested can be immediate.
They were for Liam Wray, whose routine, like his allergy, has now changed.
“If I didn’t get the testing done, I wouldn’t have been able to have almonds or hazelnuts, and I wouldn’t have known what they’re like. And so it’s good to know I can have some … some type of nuts.”