What Does Avoidance Really Mean?

By Heather Legg

When you do discover you or your child has a food allergy, one of the first things you are probably told is to avoid that food. So what does that mean, really? If you have a tree nut allergy, do you avoid all tree nuts? How about a seafood allergy, do you satay away from all kinds of seafood? The difficult thing about allergies is they are so variable person to person, even throughout the same person’s life.

According to an article on WebMD states:
The problem is that tests for food allergy are very sensitive. This means that if you do have a food allergy, the tests are very likely to catch it. But the tests aren’t very specific. This means that the tests often are positive when there’s no food allergy.

That means you may test positive for a specific allergen, say pecans, but really your body might not display any harmful symptoms if you ate them. Or maybe you could ingest a small amount without any reaction, but you wouldn’t want to eat a piece of pecan pie.

For instance, my daughter is allergic to “tree nuts.” And, boy, is it confusing. She is fine with peanut butter (which many people believe falls under that category) and we know she isn’t allergic to all tree nuts. She was tested negatively for almonds, so those are clear, but positive for walnuts, pecans and cashews. So what about pine nuts and macadamia nuts and all the other tree nuts? Some people think she may be allergic to coconut, but she’s not (I don’t think it qualifies as a tree nut).

So what does she avoid? Well, to make things easier, when she’s with others, it’s just easier to say nuts. Now that she’s getting older, though, she knows what she can have and what she can’t; it’s the unsure of’s that worry us. So mostly we stay away – but I wonder – have nuts slipped into her diet and we don’t know?

Because here’s another facet to the question – what about traces and factories and all of that?

With us, if you see the nut, don’t eat it. For others, if the package states there may be traces, they stay away. Or if it’s been made in a factory, they stay clear. Some don’t eat food from a bakery that cooks with nuts, for us, it’s okay.

Bottom line, avoidance means different things for different people with different allergies. It’s a challenge figuring it out, but better safe than sorry and somethings figure themselves out. And what about getting retested as children get older to know if they are still allergic and should still avoid? Well, that’s a whole different story!
 

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