It’s Time to Be Allergy Aware

Word cloud for Food allergy

We all know someone with a food allergy. But did you know that the month of May is National Food Allergy Awareness Month? This is a time to educate Canadians about food allergies and provide awareness on how to best avoid allergic reactions. This is an important topic, as some food allergies can be fatal.

Food allergies impact more people than you might realize. According to Health Canada, 2.5 million Canadians have food allergies. This includes over 300,000 children, which is why many schools, camps, and extracurricular programs have policies on packing student lunches and snacks. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, one in every 13 kids has a food allergy, which translates to a minimum of two students per classroom.

There are a lot of questions when it comes to this subject and we wanted the low-down, so we sat down with Dr. Shelly Reitkop, a Naturopathic Doctor, for some expert advice on food allergies.

Here are five common questions on the minds of parents:

  1. How do I know if my child has food sensitivities?

Food sensitivities may be noted as early as infancy. Typically, the most common sign in infants is a skin rash such as eczema, colic, or constipation. As children get older, food sensitivities may continue to manifest as skin complaints or digestive concerns, but many kids react to food sensitivities in other ways. For instance, some kids experience physical symptoms such as chronic nasal congestion, headaches, or fatigue while other kids suffer from more mental/emotional concerns such as hyperactivity, irritability, or anxiety. Food sensitivities may be apparent from birth or may develop at one or more points in a person’s life. For instance, they may be triggered by antibiotics, poor food choices, or stress.

  1. What is the difference between a food sensitivity and a food allergy?

If a person has a food allergy, the immune system produces an antibody called IgE, resulting in an immediate reaction such as diarrhea, hives or anaphylaxis. If a person has a food sensitivity, the immune system produces IgG which may cause symptoms to appear anywhere between 24 hours to one week after exposure. Food sensitivities differ from food allergies since they are simply the result of an underlying digestive impairment. Once the digestive system is treated, the food can be reintroduced in the diet, without any negative symptoms.

  1. What are the most common food sensitivities?

There are many foods that commonly result in food sensitivities. The most common reactive foods include: corn, dairy, eggs, gluten, shellfish, soy and sugar

  1. Is there a way to test for food sensitivities?

There are two ways of determining food sensitivities and there are pros and cons to both. The first way is by simply eliminating all the most common reactive foods from your diet. Take note of any physical or psychological concerns or goals you may have and track them over a two-week period. You will likely see some surprising improvements! Reintroduce one food at a time, one day at a time, and note your concerns and/or goals again. If symptoms reappear, you’ve uncovered your specific food sensitivities.

The second approach is to get a food sensitivity blood test with a Naturopathic Doctor. The test may cost anywhere between $200-$500 and gives you detailed information about what foods you’re reactive to and to what degree. It’s great for people who can’t commit to strictly eliminating all the potentially reactive foods and who will only remove foods if there is evidence their body is negatively responding to them.

  1. How do I treat food sensitivities?

In order to treat and eliminate food sensitivities, it’s essential to heal the digestive system. Removing the food from your diet (or your child’s diet) is crucial but not the only step. You do need to treat the digestive system with the right supplements such as probiotics, L-Glutamine and digestive enzymes. I highly recommend seeing a Naturopathic Doctor who can create a comprehensive treatment plan and guide you throughout the process.

For more information on food allergies and how youth can best manage them, visit Be sure to check out their Summer of Tag contest presented by Anaphylaxis Canada and Pfizer Canada. Calling all students, don’t miss this challenge to help design a message for race car driver Alex Tagliani’s helmet and race car!


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Joanne Sallay

Joanne Sallay is a Director at Teachers on Call, a personalized home tutoring service with more than 25 years of experience. Teachers on Call’s Ontario Certified Teachers specialize in providing one-on-one instruction in all subjects and grades including French Immersion tutoring. For further information about Teachers on Call, please visit:


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