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Food Allergies/Inhalant allergy - food allergy

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QUESTION: Dear Sir,

I was wondering if an inhalant allergy can develop into a food allergy.(I mean: if you eat it you will also react, for example if you are allergic to a certain insect (inhalant) I imagine that if you eat it, you will also react?)

I assume it does because there are some cross reactions known between inhalant allergens and food products.

ANSWER: You ask a more complicated question than you think. The simplest answer is: It depends!

1. People with seasonal rhinitis to Birch pollen in Scandinavia and NE England can develop a specific kind of allergy to Fresh fruit causing mainly mouth symptoms. The same things happen with grass pollen in Italy. I have no idea about the frequencies where you live. It is very rarely dangerous.

2. Most people do not necessarily react to eating the same things that cause respiratory allergy

3. Pyrethrin type insecticides commonly cause allergies. If eating insecticides does not give you allergies, it can kill you plenty of other ways. Don't do it!

4. Insects? Never heard of it. BUT if you include mites (which are not insects - mites have rather more legs), there have been reports of systemic reactions to mites in flour from the Canaries. We studied potential food reactions to common storage mites and house dust mites. We could find no clinical reactions in the UK even though many people have quite high IgE-class antibodies to several. I think it reasonable to conclude that such are not a significant problem in Northern Europe.

If this does not answer your question, please get back about your particular problem.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hallo thanks for the answer.
My situation is rather specific. I work with locusts and developed an inhalant allergy.
Normally its not really a problem since we dont eat locusts here, but eating insects is more and more an alternative for meat. This is why I wondered about it, if someday I might want to eat it, I wonder if I should do it or not.
I guess there is indeed not a simple answer.

Answer
Aha! It never occurred to me that you were working with locusts. Inhalant allergies to locusts is a recognised cause of inhalant allergies in people who work with them. It is actually a recognised occupational disease. If you are paid to do it, under occupational health and safety laws applicable in Europe, your employer is responsible to provide you with adequate measures to prevent you from getting such a sensitivity and for treating the results, et cetera. But in the USA - I've no idea.

I know of no scientific work on this area, but your company's occupational health physician should know much more about this area than me. Since I know nothing about the ingestion of locusts except that they are eaten in some parts of the world. However, I think such reactions are unlikely to "cross-react" with other insects. Our data with mites showed that reactions between individual species is not due to common antigenic determinants, but are species-specific. But a lot of people have quite separate multiple sensitivities independently acquired.

Without being flippant, the answer for you is to try it and see! You'd be a world first. Antibody levels and such have zero predictive value of the risk of reactions to such agents on eating them (except to confirm the systemic sensitivity you already know you have). The risk to you is probably small, but even a small risk of death would put me off the experiment. Just don't eat locusts is the pragmatic course of action.

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David Pearson

Expertise

Any in the field I believe. Only experience of questions that get asked will tell.

Experience

I am a retired medical academic from the UK. I have done major research on Food Allergy and have been a government adviser in the area. 30 years experience running an allergy clinic. And undergraduate and post-graduate teaching.

Organizations
Well, apart from the FRCP, I'm no longer active in the area. I'm too busy writing books. And I no longer have the cash to go to international meetings. But was active in many.

Publications
Will 120 scientific papers help? Chapters in books. Patient advisory materials. Magazine articles. TV appearances. Live and recorded. National and international invited lectures, etc. It was my job for 40 years. Do you think I count!

Education/Credentials
MD, PhD, Postgraduate Diplomas etc. Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. etc. But I don't want that put out on the net! Just to let you know!

Awards and Honors
irrelevant.

Past/Present Clients
Too many to count, patients of course and a large number of all sorts of corporate consultancies and considerable work as an expert witness in the Courts. I'm volunteering because your Greek expert has been so helpful, I thought I'd offer something back.

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