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Online clinic on allergies - Feb 2018

Action Against Allergy (AAA) provides information, advice and support to those made chronically ill through the many different forms of allergy and those who care for them.

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food allergy

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Airborne Food Allergy

Postby Elizabeth82 on Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:59 pm

What foods can potentially become airborne?

Could cooking foods like boiling milk, or frying egg trigger an allergic reaction?

Or packets of nuts/peanuts?

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Re: Airborne Food Allergy

Postby Dr Dinkar Bakshi on Thu Feb 15, 2018 3:31 pm

There is no conclusive answer to this as the effects may be variable amongst different food allergens and the actual amount of allergen inhaled. I have seen cases of significant allergy to fish allergen inhalation when it is being cooked in the household. There have also been a few reports of reactions when nuts were being roasted in the vicinity. I have not come across similar situations with cows' milk or hens' egg allergen inhalation during cooking. Fish, shellfish and nuts are more prone to cause severe or anaphylactic reactions whereas the majority of allergies to milk and egg are less severe and often outgrown over time.
In a closed pressurised air environment in airplanes, peanuts are often served as snacks but the reports of peanut allergy due to inhalation are extremely rare, unless nuts were ingested in the food.
A logical view would be to certainly avoid being anywhere near a food allergen being cooked if it is known to have caused severe reactions in the past.
Dr Dinkar Bakshi

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Re: Airborne Food Allergy

Postby Dr Tom Marrs on Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:47 pm

Cooking eggs, fish and milk can release small amounts of airborne allergen, such that people with immediate food allergies to egg, fish and milk can feel itchy around the eyes, nose and throat (like with hay fever), or indeed wheeze in some cases. However, antihistamine and leaving the environment with the cooking smells is usually enough to control the symptoms.

Peanut does not release its allergen into the air when roasted, according to research. However, it is more common for small particles to be shed when packets of dried nuts are opened dramatically. This would allow contact to pass the nut allergens around, however there is little nut allergen that is truly airborne in the same way as fish, milk or egg.

However, there are other conditions that can cause upper and lower airway irritation in a cooking environment. Some may relate to asthma or other breathing problems, many of which are more common than the scenario above. Therefore, if an already established, pre-existing condition does not explain such symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor to help interpret the symptoms and see whether they may realistically be caused by a food allergy.
Dr Tom Marrs
Consultant in Paediatric Allergy, Director of the Allergy Academy, King's College London, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Allergy, King's College London

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