Atopic asthma may develop in around 5-10% of children with food allergy, with this decreasing with age. Common foods associated with asthma include cow’s milk, wheat, fish and shellfish and can sensitive the immune system through inhalation as well as by eating.  IgE food allergy reactions are the most common types of reactions to occur in respiratory conditions like asthma. However, symptoms can also be mediated by non-IgE reactions and non-allergic food hypersensitivity. Reported food allergy, food sensitisation and skin prick testing are all positively associated with asthma in school age children. The relationship between food allergy and asthma can provide a marker of the presence or the severity of both those conditions.

atopic eczema

Courtesy of The Leap Study, Evangelina Hospital, London

Consumption of foods containing additives such as benzoates, sulphites, tartrazine and to a lesser extent monosodium glutamate have been linked to provoking asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis in atopic children.   These reactions are not IgE food allergy reactions but may be caused by a non- allergic hypersensitivity reaction. Asthmatic children who are sensitive to aspirin may also be sensitive to benzoates and tartrazine, which have a similar chemical to aspirin. See blog on food additives in atopic asthma for a list.

Atopic asthma when associated with food allergic reactions should seek advice from an allergy specialist and registered dietitian before excluding any major food groups such as cow’s milk or wheat.