We all know and we all are aware of the food allergies we have. As we know that everybody’s system is different from each other and we all are allergic to something. Those things also contain food items. People all around the world are allergic to different items, some are allergic to beans, eggs, or vegetables, and others to any seed oil. If they consume these items, it will give allergic reactions like shortness of breath, vomiting, or any other sign which we will discuss below.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention:
- 4 to 6% of children are suffering from food allergies
- 4% of adults are affected by some kind of food allergy
Globally, around 50 million people are allergic to some specific food items. Some with mild symptoms and some with a serious condition.
Food allergy is not a disease or any illness but it is basically an immune response that is triggered by the body whenever it detects allergic particles or the particle the person is allergic to. There are a number of foods that children and also adults are allergic to. The food allergy reactions can be mild to moderate and can even be serious.
Signs and symptoms of food allergy
Food allergic reactions are sometimes mild or can be more serious to cause a life-threatening disease known as “anaphylaxis”. The symptoms of food allergy can easily be confused with any other disease but due to the duration and cause it can slow down. Every person has a different food allergy and symptoms also vary. But there can be common immune responses that are:
- Itching in mouth, face, or hands
- Swelling in mouth, face, or hands
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Difficulty in breathing
- Throat pain and tightening
- Low blood pressure in severe allergies
- Itching and red rashes all over the body
- Nasal congestion
- Digestive problems
- Swollen throat and airways
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Tingling on the tongue, lips, or scalp, or on the face
These symptoms start within a few minutes of swallowing the allergic food. The symptoms can also take up to 2 hours to show symptoms or anaphylactic reactions. So the person should be careful about what he or she is eating because it can be serious.
Can food allergy be inherited?
Yes! Many food allergies are inherited. 90% of the food allergies that are caused by common food items are inherited and runs in the genes. Sometimes people who have inherited the food allergy do not know whether it is inherited or not. Many people are unaware of their food allergies because they get mild allergies which resolve with time. But when it is inherited by the other person it may give serious symptoms or anaphylaxis.
What is anaphylaxis?
You must be curious about this term used above “anaphylaxis”. Anaphylaxis is a medical term used when there is a severe allergic reaction. An anaphylactic reaction is a life-threatening reaction. Anaphylactic reactions are commonly the result of food items. It can also be caused by stings, medicines, pollens, latex, and other allergic things. The trigger for an anaphylactic reaction is an allergy or asthma.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis
The symptoms of anaphylaxis only occur when the body is allergic to a specific thing. The symptoms are similar to food allergy because they can be severe and convert into an anaphylactic reaction. These symptoms start within 5 to 30 mins of the ingestion of the food item. It gives severe symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- A sudden or gradual drop in blood pressure
- Red rashes
- Swelling in specific areas of the body
- Swollen throat
- Passing out
- Chest tightness
- Unable to breathe
- Hoarse sounds
- The red or pale color of the facial skin or the whole body
How to diagnose a food allergy?
To diagnose a food allergy whether it is a common food allergic reaction or it is an anaphylactic reaction, several tests, physical exams, and questions are asked to the person. Family history is also required to see if it is inherited. Multiple allergy tests are performed to see if the person has an allergy after examining all the symptoms and duration. These tests only confirm that a person has an allergy, it does not reveal to what item he or she is allergic to. These tests are:
- Allergy blood test
- IgE skin test
- Allergy testing
Other tests for examining if it is a reaction to a food item:
- Oral challenge test: to check the suspected allergen and the allergic reaction by giving a small number of suspected food items to the patient.
- An elimination diet: after the oral challenge test, eliminate that food item from the diet to see if the reaction is still coming on or not.
- Skin prick test: to see if the color changing or rash or hives is by an allergy or any other skin issue.
- Blood test: to see if the IgE antibodies are there in the bloodstream for fighting off the allergens.
Treatment for food allergies
There is no such treatment for a food allergy. There are multiple combinations of treatments for reducing the reaction or decreasing the time. The easiest way is to eliminate the food item you are allergic to from your diet. Avoiding having that food item because you never know when you get the anaphylactic reaction.
For relieving the symptoms of food allergy or reducing any anaphylactic reaction, the most effective and reliable treatment option is “oral immunotherapy” that is:
- The immediate and most effective treatment will be giving “epinephrine” to the person to reduce the life-threatening symptom or any severe symptoms of anaphylactic reaction or allergic reaction. It may also reverse the food allergy.
- Auto-injector pen (Adrenaclick, Anapen, EpiPen, Jext, or Twinject) with adrenaline to reduce the onset of symptoms for emergency or acute allergic reactions
Most common allergic food items or common food allergies
There are several foods that are more commonly seen as allergic to many people around the world. Any food items whose protein seems a ‘threat’ or is unfamiliar to the body’s immune system can cause an allergy or an allergic reaction. And avoiding that item will be good to prevent an anaphylactic reaction. After multiple surveys and researches, the most common allergic food items or the triggers of an anaphylactic reaction are:
- Milk especially cow milk
- Dairy products
- Beans like soya bean
- Seed oil
- Shellfish like lobster, prawn, or crab
- Fish oil
- Tree nuts like walnuts or pine nuts
- Fruits and vegetables that contain pollens.
Before you Leave!
If a person is allergic to a food item, he or she should avoid intaking that item to prevent further complications of the reaction. This food allergy can be converted into a life-threatening condition. It is better if the person eliminates that specific item or protein from their diet. Food allergies have no specific treatment. The treatment available is temporary and for reducing the reaction symptoms. Therefore, it’s better to avoid than to pay off.
A student of Surgical Technology from Dow University of Health Sciences. She brings her expertise on surgical procedures, knowledge on Human Anatomy and Modern Day Surgeries to help students understand and learn easier ways and help patients understand hospital procedures before their surgeries.