Sam Hill was found to be allergic to peanut butter, which he was eating for breakfast. (ABC News: Elias Clure)
For most of his life, six-year-old Samuel Hill has lived in pain.
Chronic eczema would cause him to scratch off his skin and spend sleepless nights trying to ignore the crawling sensation all over his body.
Sam’s parents were at a loss as to what was causing it and several trips to the doctor did nothing to help diagnose their son’s pain.
|Food||One-year-olds with allergies||Four-year-olds with allergies|
|Peanut||3.1 per cent||1.9 per cent|
|Egg||9.5 per cent||1.2 per cent|
|Sesame||0.6 per cent||0.5 per cent|
Source: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Even after doctors proscribed changes to Sam diet, the nasty symptoms would persist.
His parents enrolled him in a study of over 5,000 children where researchers look at the cause, symptoms and prevention of allergies amongst kids.
Sam’s dad Craig said he had no idea food allergies were causing his son’s terrible eczema.
“We didn’t really have a lot of clues, the things we were missing were buried under the eczema he had,” he said.
“One of the most common things we’d feed him for breakfast, peanut butter on toast, that turned out to be one of his biggest allergies and a very dangerous one.”
Craig said the study means he has peace of mind.
“Now we know what he can and can’t eat,” he said.
“Food that we were worried about before we can say ‘no you don’t have to worry about that’, and on the other hand we now know what to stay away from.
“The turnaround has been so profound he’s gone from being in pain and miserable 70 per cent of the time and now he’s 90 per cent comfortable and happy.”
‘Food allergies going under the radar’
The study, conducted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital, is one of the biggest of its kind.
It has followed Sam and the thousands of other children since they were one-year-olds and will continue until they reach age 10.
Researchers have found that while many children grow out of their food allergies after they reach the age of four, babies and toddlers can spend their early lives in pain without their parents knowing the specific cause.
Australia also has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the world.
“We are the food allergy capital of the world,” Professor Katie Allen said.
Professor Allen said many parents do not understand the link between chronic illnesses, such as asthma and eczema, and food allergies.
“This study is very helpful for parents to understand how broad food allergy is,” she said.
“Often food allergy goes under the radar, people are often dismissive of food allergies when they shouldn’t be.”
The goal of the research is to prevent food allergies causing long-term health effects in the community.
“If we can prevent food allergy then perhaps we can prevent things like asthma that affects so many Australians,” Professor Allen said.
The research has also focused on vitamin D and whether that is causing high rates of allergy amongst children.
“We know in the northern hemisphere they don’t add vitamin D to all their milk products, whereas they do that here so we think that might be the reason why we are the food allergy capital of the world,” she said.
This week marks Australia’s national allergy awareness week.