Over the last few years, the rates of food allergy have risen and today 15 million Americans are allergic to food. Between 1997 and 2011, this represents a 50 percent increase and school children are particularly vulnerable to allergies to common foods like milk, wheat, peanuts and soy. This is particularly serious for children. That’s why researchers are looking for intelligent technology devices that can detect allergens, alert carers and protect vulnerable individuals to lessen the prevalence of life-threatening reactions among young children.
Allergies, immune reactions and intolerances
Although allergies are very common, allergies, food intolerances, and immunological responses to food are confuted by many people – and everybody is very different. For instance, wheat allergies are distinct from celiac disease, an autoimmune response to the gluten protein that occurs in wheat. The body attacks the lining of the colon during the Celiac disease, considering the host organ as an alien substance.
The iCliniq doctor and the paediatric allergy specialist Parin Niranjanbhai Parmar explains that allergies are by definition an immune reaction to the harmless substance. By releasing histamine, the body attempts to attack that protein. This can lead to a multi-system reaction, anaphylaxis, which can lead to GI problems, skin response and blockage of the airway and killing. On the other hand, intolerances often result from GI problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), lack of specific digestive enzymes, or sensitivity to certain compounds, as seen during a disease caused by lactose intolerance.
While all these reactions differ from biological factors, several instruments designed for allergy protection may also detect contamination that can trigger autoimmune reactions or food intolerance symptoms. These devices can probably have an important customer base as they improve.
Gluten sensitivity is currently one of the most digestive disorders and many people remove gluten to treat unrelated health conditions, such as IBS, ADHD, autism and skin problems. Alas, one in three gluten-free marked foods does contain some gluten contaminants. There is also a high risk of contamination when dining out, even when kitchens take precautions to protect customers.
Nima is the device which is launched by MIT researchers in 2016. One device that detects the presence of gluten. For a small piece of food Nima uses sensor technology and can determine the presence of gluten within two minutes. It can help protect celiac patients, wheat allergies, and different levels of sensitivity to gluten. Nima is also being developed for a peanut detection version.
One of the problems of living with any serious health condition is that medical equipment can be difficult to cover and unnaturally wear. As children get older, they often refuse medical warnings, insulin pumps and tools for safeguarding them. However, tweens and teens are more likely to take advantage of the available tools by disguising the allergy detection technology as a trendy accessory.
The Allergy Amulet is a trendy way of encouraging users to test allergens for their foodstuffs. The device contains test strips that can be used to prevent accidental exposure as a necklace or bracelet, stored in a special smartphone cabinet. Originally developed for detecting peanut protein, the device was also tested with common allergenics such as egg, gluten and shellfish in concentrations as high as 1-2 ppm.
Interventions on rapid tracking
Finally, even people who are prepared to use car injectors can fight to treat themselves promptly when it comes to food allergies in children. And anaphylaxis may progress and be deadly if a trained adult is not nearby. Therefore, a technology to help children and adolescents get help before it’s too late is one of the most important innovations in the allergy world.
Together with the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation, Harvard has been looking into ways of identifying and speeding the treatment of anaphylaxis with a wearable automatic injector which can be used to measure initial physiological changes and patients at the start of the reaction with epinephrine. This technology is prepared for the market with the expansion of other auto-injection technology like the one used for diabetes.
Allergies to food can cause anxiety, socialisation limits and even bullying. But the effect of such reactions on children can be minimised by advanced technology. The importance of the ongoing test and intervention will only become more important, particularly as dietary allergy rates continue to rise.