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Food Allergies

No matter what time of the year it is, food has a big role in many celebrations across the world. Unfortunately, food allergies and other reactions can make it difficult to enjoy the foods you love. Many are unaware of what is causing their allergic reaction. Awareness of what foods cause your allergic reaction is critical in the process of controlling your allergic reactions.

An allergy occurs when your body’s natural defenses overreact to exposure to a particular substance, treating it as an invader and sending out chemicals to defend against it. Food allergies can appear at any age. A food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms at another time. Any food can cause an adverse reaction but there are a handful of foods that account for most allergic reactions:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  •  Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Sesame

Symptoms

Symptoms of an allergic reaction can occur in many different ways including:

  • Vomiting and/or stomach cramps
  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tight, hoarse throat; trouble swallowing
  • Repetitive cough
  • Dizziness or feeling faint

Triggers

Once your food allergies have been diagnosed, the most effective treatment is to avoid the food. People allergic to specific food may also potentially have a reaction to related foods. You should speak with your allergist for help in whether there is risk of cross-reactivity to other foods.

Diagnosis

There are a few methods used to diagnose food allergies but most allergists will ask you similar questions about:

  • What and how much you ate
  • How long it took for symptoms to develop
  • What symptoms you experienced and how long they lasted
  • After taking your history, your allergist may order skin tests and/or blood tests.
  • Skin-prick tests provide results in about 20 minutes. A liquid containing a tiny amount of the food allergen is placed on the skin of your arm or back. Your skin is pricked with a small, sterile probe, pushing a small amount of the liquid into the skin. The test, which isn’t painful (but can be a little uncomfortable), is considered positive if a wheal (resembling the bump from a mosquito bite) develops at the site where the suspected allergen was placed.
  • Blood tests, which are a bit less exact than skin tests, measure the amount of allergy (IgE) antibody to the specific food(s) being tested. Results are typically available in about a week and are reported as a numerical value.

Management of your Food Allergies

The primary and most effective way to manage a food allergy is to avoid consuming the food that causes you problems. Always carefully check the ingredient labels of food products and learn whether what you need to avoid is known by other names.
Avoiding an allergen is easier said than done. While labeling has made this process a bit easier, some foods are so common that avoiding them is daunting. In these cases, a dietitian or a nutritionist may be able to help. Special cookbooks and support groups, for patients with specific allergies can also provide useful information. A very helpful online resource is the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

To learn more in-depth about food allergies click here

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