In honor of the upcoming World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, I wanted to share some information regarding autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and food allergies.
IgE-mediated allergic diseases (e.g., allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, atopic asthma and food allergy) are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide, and are continuing to rise each year. In addition to easily recognized symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing, allergic diseases can cause neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as irritability and hyperactivity, in otherwise healthy individuals. This is also likely to occur in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Moreover, the discomfort and pain associated with allergic diseases could aggravate behavioral symptoms in ASD children.  This may be due the child’s inability to communicate or fully understand or explain his or her discomfort.
Autism spectrum disorder children are known to suffer from additional issues, with gastrointestinal (GI) and sleep disorders being the most common. It may be useful to test for food allergies to confirm or rule out allergies as a cause for GI issues. Allergy testing can be done by skin testing or blood work. Many times these tests indicate that children do, in fact, have true allergic responses to foods. Other times, the tests come back “negative” for food allergies.
If a patient tests positive for food allergies, they can be treated with sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops), by avoiding the allergy-inducing foods altogether, or a combination of both.
For more information about World Autism Awareness Day, please go to: https://www.autismspeaks.org/. Wear blue on April 2 to show your support of the Light It Up Blue national campaign.
I read a great blog post a few days ago, written by a guest blogger for FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). The blog post was written to encourage others to participate in Fare’s Food Allergy Heroes Walk. The take-home message for me was simple- Create Awareness.
My first profession was that of an elementary school teacher. I was young and single, with no children of my own. My ‘awareness’ of food allergies was very limited. I knew of food allergies, I’d heard of people being allergic to peanuts, but had no real understanding what that meant for a child with food allergies or a parent with a food-allergic child. Due to my inexperience, I didn’t have any understanding that being in contact with a peanut, or peanut butter, or a child who just ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch could produce such disastrous outcomes- anaphylaxis, emergency rooms, feeling like nobody understands. I didn’t ‘get it’ when parents and organizations had wars with the airline industry about banning peanuts as snacks. I just thought, “Well, don’t eat the peanuts then.” I didn’t understand that there are people so allergic to peanuts that by simply breathing in the cabin air on an airplane could make them sick, or that by touching a seat-back someone touched who had recently eaten peanuts and then wiping their eyes, nose, or mouth could have a severe allergic reaction. I also was not aware that there were treatments for food allergies, such as allergy drops/sublingual immunotherapy.
Many years have gone by since I was a teacher, and I’m now a mother of three children, who thankfully do not have food allergies. However, I have become more ‘aware’. Aware of the needs of individuals with food allergies, aware of the needs of individuals as a whole- the need for sympathy and understanding from others, no matter what their ‘cause’ may be.
If you’re looking for a FARE walk, please follow the link to find a location near you.