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International Global Health Blog

What are food allergies?

International Global Health


What are food allergies?

 

food allergy occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods. The body’s immune response can be severe and life threatening, such as anaphylaxis. Although the immune system normally protects people from germs, in people with food allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to food as if it were harmful.

 

Eight foods or food groups account for 90% of serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.

 

Symptoms

The body’s immune system keeps you healthy by fighting off infections and other dangers to good health. A food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food, identifying it as a danger and triggering a protective response.

 

While allergies tend to run in families, it is impossible to predict whether a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy or whether siblings will have a similar condition. Some research does suggest that the younger siblings of a child with a peanut allergy will also be allergic to peanuts.

 

Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. Just because an initial reaction causes few problems doesn’t mean that all reactions will be similar; a food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms at another time.

 

The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction that can impair your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in your blood pressure and affect your heart rate. Anaphylaxis can come on within minutes of exposure to the trigger food. It can be fatal and must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).

 

Diagnosis

If you feel you have food allergy, you may have to go to your GP to do medical examination. Your GP will be asking regarding your medical history also. If your GP finds you have good allergy, you may be referred to an allergy clinic for medical test.

  •   If the symptoms develop quickly (an IgE – mediated food allergy) you have to do a skin-prick test or a blood test.
  •   If the symptoms developed slowely (non-IgE- mediated food allergy) you will probably have food elimination diet

 

Treatment

The primary way to manage a food allergy is to avoid consuming the food that causes you problems. Carefully check 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 helped make this process a bit easier, some foods are so common that avoiding them is daunting. A dietitian or a nutritionist may be able to help. These food experts will offer tips for avoiding the foods that trigger your allergies and will ensure that even if you exclude certain foods from your diet, you still will be getting all the nutrients you need

Be extra careful when eating in restaurants especially for your children. The Waiters or the kitchen staff may not always know the ingredients of every dish on the menu.

 

Tips

Food allergy is manageable however there is no cure for food allergies and reactions can be life threatening. Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction.

 

References:

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

NHS

Web MD

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



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