Did you know that children in Australia have the highest rate of food allergies in the world? The country also leads in rates of asthma, hay fever, and eczema, and Queensland has the planet’s highest rates of shellfish allergies. The country is grappling with soaring food allergy rates, made all the more difficult by the fact that no one knows why rates are climbing or how to stop food allergies from developing.

Allergy specialists and advocates note that while food allergy rates may be climbing, awareness and public conversation are making life more tolerable for those afflicted by allergies, according to theCourier Mail.Still, allergies are costly, and can have a negative effect on the whole community.

According to recent research, one in ten Australian infants has tested positive for a food allergy. This rate is nearly double the food allergy incidence just a decade ago. This increase is frightening, especially since no one knows for sure what’s behind it. Immunologist Katie Allen of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, who led the recent study, warns that Australia is on the edge of an allergy epidemic, the effects of which could be catastrophic. Anaphylaxis Australia president Marie Said commented on the study, saying that the overall picture of food allergies in Australia is “not good.”

Allergy specialist Dr. Pete Smith says “It is hard to imagine anything worse than knowing that simply feeding your child could kill them.” While those with food allergies have historically faced stigmas surrounding their condition, Marie Said of Anaphylaxis Australia says “There have been improvements in societal responses to people’s allergies.” The food service industry is more prepared to offer safe foods, and discrimination has been widely replaced with acceptance. Still, the country has a ways to go. Waiting lists to see the few allergy specialists in the country are often 12 to 18 months, which can seem like forever for those dealing with life-threatening food allergies.

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