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Food allergies and asthma: double trouble

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Food allergies and asthma are on the rise. Although many people who have asthma don’t need to worry too much about the foods they eat, there are some whose asthma symptoms can be triggered by certain foods. Here to uncover the science behind food allergies and asthma is health specialist Leanne Edermaniger.

What’s the difference between allergic and sensitive?


If you are allergic to a specific food, then you are likely to have an allergic reaction soon after you encounter an allergen. For example, someone who is allergic to shellfish may experience common asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.


You can be sensitive to specific foods or additives. Sensitivity is different from a true food allergy and there is less evidence linking food sensitivity with the triggering of asthma symptoms.

How do I know if a food is an asthma trigger?

Asthma develops in around 5% of individuals who have a food allergy. Many food allergies first become evident in childhood, but it is possible for them to develop later in life too. Asthma attacks brought on by an allergic reaction to food can often manifest as more severe than ‘normal’ asthma attacks.

Common food allergies or sensitivities

Any type of food can cause an allergy or sensitivity in some people, but there are certain foods which appear to cause more problems than others. These include eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts, soy and fish.

Although asthma and food allergies coexist, the relationship between the two is still not fully understood. It is therefore advantageous to identify any food allergies or sensitivities as early as possible.

How to manage food allergies and asthma

Be sure to keep a food diary and seek medical advice if you think you have a food allergy or sensitivity which is leading to the onset of asthma symptoms. Once the problem food(s) have been identified, you should check out the “free from” aisle at your local grocery store, pay close attention to food labels and inform restaurants of your requirements.

How to prevent allergens from causing an asthma attack

If you know a specific food is causing your asthma symptoms to develop, there are some steps you can take to help prevent this from happening.

  • Avoid the food or allergen you are allergic or sensitive to.
  • Always keep your reliever inhaler with you.
  • Keep others informed about your allergies.

Let’s recap:

Having asthma shouldn’t take over your life. If you are allergic or sensitive to a specific food, there are plenty of ‘free from’ alternatives available which are safe and tasty to eat.

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