Monday, April 27, 2009

Rising number of children allergic to fruit and vegetables

Soaring numbers of children are being diagnosed with allergies to fruit and vegetables.

Doctors have seen the numbers rise by as much as five times in some areas of the country, putting children at risk of asthma.

Experts fear the rising tide of intolerance to fruit and veg could be the new peanut allergy, which affects one in 50 children.

Symptoms of the new phenomenon - known as 'oral allergy syndrome' - include swelling in the mouth and throat, which in the worst cases can lead to severe breathing difficulties.

The syndrome is linked to hay fever, a seasonal condition. But because fruit and veg are consumed all year round, the effect is more debilitating.

Dr Pamela Ewan, an allergy consultant at Addenbroke's Hospital in Cambridge, said cases or oral allergies to fruit and veg were rising, particularly among children.

'We have seen a big rise in the number of cases in the past four to five years,' she said. 'It is a bit like the peanut was the epidemic of the 1990s.

'I think fruit and vegetables are becoming the epidemic now. In terms of numbers, fruit and vegetables are the new form of peanut allergy.'

She added: 'We think fruit and vegetables are healthy, which they mostly are, but you can be allergic to them. Early on when we first picked is up, it was passed off as not being serious. It began with fairly mild itching in the mouth.

'But now we are seeing people who are getting really severe throat closure, a significant swelling at the back of the throat which can impede breathing.'

Figures are hard to come by, but in south Wales, the numbers being diagnosed have gone up from one for every 100,000 of the population to five - in just six years.

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