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Wat zijn allergenen?

What are allergens?

At Vini Mini we're talking about giving your baby allergens (eg peanut and egg) to reduce the chance of an allergy.
But what exactly are allergens? And which allergens cause the most allergic reactions in the Netherlands and Europe?

What kind of allergens are there?

When you talk about allergens, you can talk about:

  • Food allergens: enter the body through food.
    Examples are: proteins in peanuts.
  • Inhalant allergens: enter the body through inhalation.
    Examples are: pollen or house dust mites.
  • Contact allergens: enter the body through contact with the skin.
    Examples are: cosmetic products.

At Vini Mini we are talking about food allergens.
Food allergens are therefore proteins that can trigger allergic reactions. 
But what are proteins?

What are proteins in food?

Protein is a nutrient, just like carbohydrates and fat. Protein provides calories and amino acids. Amino acids are building blocks for the protein in body cells. Another word for protein is protein. 

Almost all foods contain protein. Just look at a label; there are always proteins on it. It occurs in both plant and animal products. Animal proteins are mainly found in meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs. Vegetable proteins are mainly found in bread, grain products, legumes, nuts and mushrooms. 

What are the 14 most common allergens?

Proteins that have the ability to cause allergic reactions are also called food allergens.
The 14 substances that trigger the most allergic reactions in Europe are:

  1. Cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, khorasan wheat/kamut)
  2. shellfish
  3. Eggs
  4. Fish
  5. Peanut
  6. Soja
  7. Milk (including lactose)
  8. Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, and macadamia nuts)
  9. Celery
  10. Mustard
  11. Sesame seeds
  12. Sulphur dioxide and sulfite at concentrations of more than 10 mg SO2 per kilo or liter.
  13. Lupine 
  14. Mosluscs

Which allergies are most common in babies?

In the Netherlands, approximately 5-7% of children are allergic and 2-3% of adults.
The number of children with food allergies has doubled in the past 10 years.

The following allergies are most common in very young children:

  • Cow's milk
  • Chicken egg     
  • Peanut
  • Nuts
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Wheat

Food allergies are more common in babies and young children than in adults.
This is because the intestines are not yet fully developed and therefore proteins in the diet are not completely broken down. These larger protein particles can trigger an allergy, because they are absorbed into the blood through the intestinal wall. When the intestines are fully matured, these proteins can often be tolerated. This is when your child is 4 years old.

Over koemelkallergie groeit ongeveer 80% van de kinderen heen, terwijl dit maar 20% is bij pinda en noten. Er zijn voor pinda wel veelbelovende studies om allergische kinderen bloot te stellen aan kleine hoeveelheden allergeen eiwit om toch zo de allergie te kunnen overkomen.

Vini Mini is not aimed at a cure for food allergies, but at prevention; thus the prevention of food allergies in babies.

My child is allergic to peanut. Does he/she have a nut allergy?

In many cases people do not react to one substance but to several.
Multiple allergies are common. Some combinations of allergies are more common; this phenomenon is called cross-sensitivity. This phenomenon usually occurs with foods belonging to a related family. 

However, it is not the case that if you are allergic to peanut (which is a legume and not a nut) that you are also allergic to nuts. It is often not the case that you are allergic to ALL nuts. That is why it is good to introduce allergens to your baby separately, so that you can clearly see what a possible reaction will be.

Cross allergy

If there is a reaction to one kind of a note group, you have to be careful with the other notes of that same group:

  • Tropical nuts: cashew & pistachio
  • Walnuts: walnut & pecan

    Some examples of cross allergies with peanuts:

    • Tree nuts
    • Soybeans
    • legumes

      If I make peanut sauce, do I have less risk of an allergic reaction because it is heated?

      No, because heating by boiling or frying in most cases has no influence on the allergenicity, despite the protein changing structure (this is called denaturation). This can only be the case with milk and egg.
       

      Sources:
      Nutrition center
      Food Allergy Foundation
      Dutch Association for Allergology
      Allergens Consultancy
      Dutch Anaphylaxis Network
      AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology)