What are Food Allergies

The world of being allergic is no fun and being allergic to food is even more NOT fun as everyone has to eat. When you have to pay attention to food ingredients for fear of having an allergic reaction to something you ate makes something that used to be fun (eating) suddenly become a chore!

Many people have food allergies. Common food allergies in children are to eggs, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat. Common allergies for adults are fish, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts.

Some individuals confuse food allergies with food intolerance. A food allergy is when your body’s immune system treats food as if it were a foreign body. The response the immune system has triggers the symptoms such as hives, swollen mouth and throat, coughing, wheezing and eczema. Food intolerance usually causes abdominal upsets.

Causes

Why our bodies react the way the do to certain foods is not completely understood. A food allergy can begin at any age, but frequently begins during childhood. Some food allergies can be outgrown and others stay around for a lifetime.

When someone is allergic to something they ate, the symptoms usually start within a few moments to 2 hours from the time the food is eaten. The severity can depend on the amount of food ingested and your body’s reaction to the allergen. Key symptoms can be anything from hives, to a hoarse voice, to wheezing.

Reactions

Severe reactions that can be life threatening may include low blood pressure that may cause dizziness or fainting, blocked airways and difficulty breathing, which may include wheezing.

Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the eyelids, face, lips, or tongue. The individual may have difficulty swallowing or breathing, the mouth may itch, or the throat may feel itchy.

The person may feel light-headed and pass out. They may have nasal congestion, nausea, a runny nose, shortness of breath and stomach cramping. They may have only one of the above symptoms or many of them.

Diagnosing

An allergist can evaluate the individual by asking medical questions, examining them, running blood tests, asking the patient to keep a food journal, having a elimination diet done, or asking the patient to participate in a food challenge test. There may be a skin prick test to determine which foods the individual may be allergic to. There may be just one food allergy or there may be multiple food allergies.

The only truly useful treatment for food allergies is to learn how to avoid the food allergen that your are allergic to. This requires that every time you buy a food product, you read the label carefully for the food item that you are allergic to.

It also requires that you become familiar with hidden food items in products. You will need to question restaurant managers and restaurant chef’s about how they prepare their food and what ingredients are in the food that they prepare for you to eat.

If your child has food allergies you must inform anyone who may give your child something to eat of what foods your child is allergic to. You must make sure that they know how to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction and that they know how to summon medical attention for your child quickly. Your child should have emergency medication available to him/her so that it can be administered in an emergency.