Can children with fish allergies eat flake?

The Centre for Paediatric Allergies at Epworth HealthCare is leading a study to find out with whether with serious fish allergies can eat flake. James Cook University, Townsville will also be involved in the study.

This study, and the work of the Centre, is funded in partnership between the Australian Food Allergy Foundation and Epworth Medical Foundation.

Fish allergy is amongst the eight most common causes of food allergy in children. Unlike allergies to cow’s milk, wheat and egg, fish allergies tend to continue through life.

The study’s lead investigator, Dr Sam Mehr, said there are anecdotal reports of children with allergies to bony fish being able to tolerate flake (gummy shark) which is a cartilaginous fish.

“Often children who have a fish allergy are told to avoid all fish,” Dr Mehr said.

“We hope the study will show that children with fish allergies can eat flake, which is commonly sold at fish and chip shops around Victoria.”

35 children, who have had had an allergic reaction to eating fish in the last three years, will be recruited into the study to undergo a skin prick test and an allergy blood test, to determine if these tests can predict who is reactive or tolerant to flake.

All children, under a medically supervised food challenge at Epworth Richmond, will be given small amounts of flake over the next four hours.

Dr Mehr said if children pass the flake food challenge, they would be cleared to eat flake from their fish and chip shop.

“If children are cleared to eat flake, it would make it easier when they go out for a meal with their family, rather than just eating a bowl of chips. This would be a big thing for a lot of families. The other advantage is flake also contains the same level of good fats, such as Omega-3, as flathead or blue grenadier both have.”

14 year-old Isaac Hardwick has life-threatening allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish. He stopped eating fish after an allergic reaction to salmon two years ago.

“My mouth became itchy and my lip swelled and then my throat felt like it was starting to close over,” Isaac said.

“I was really disappointed as I had grown up eating salmon which was one of my favourite foods. Having an allergic reaction really shocked me.”

Isaac was the first child to take part in the supervised food challenge at the Centre for Paediatric Allergies at Epworth. The medically supervised food challenge confirmed he can safely eat flake.

“I was really nervous going into the study as I thought it was going to be like the salmon and cause an allergic reaction.”

Isaac’s mother Linda Everett is pleased he can now eat flake.

“Being able to share a meal of fish and chips is bonding time, and he doesn’t feel left out,” Ms Everett said.

“Isaac’s sister Elle eats a lot of fish so it was really hard. I am so happy now. It makes life so much easier.”

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