Food allergy is an immune system overreaction or repetitive eating of a trigger food. Even tiny amounts of the allergy-causing food can trigger reactions like digestive problems, skin itching, and/or hives and breathing difficulties. In some, it can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction is known as anaphylaxis.
Food allergy is more common in infants and children. While there's no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy. It's easy to confuse a food allergy with a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. While bothersome, food intolerance is a less serious condition that does not involve the immune system.
The Most Common Food Allergens
● Milk, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, and soy make up 90% of all food allergies in children. Milk and egg allergies are most likely to be outgrown by age 5, while only about 20% of nut allergies are outgrown.● In adults, fish and shellfish are high on the list of food allergens as well. ● Peanut and other nut allergies tend to produce the most serious, life-threatening reactions.
● Urticaria (Hives) the most common allergic skin reaction to food, are red, raised, itchy areas of the skin which appear in clusters on the skin and usually do not stay in one place on the skin for more than 24 hours.● Eczema, which is a more chronic skin problem characterized by itchy, red, scaly skin, most commonly found in the creases behind the elbows and knees.● Swelling or Itching, of the lips, mouth, tongue, or throat. This reaction can be related to pollen allergy, called oral allergy syndrome, which is not dangerous.● GI Symptoms – nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal cramping.● Anaphylaxis - a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction which presents as shortness of breath, repetitive coughing, wheezing .weak pulse, low blood pressure, fainting, paleness.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
It’s an art, not a science!
● Blood Tests: Food specific IgE testing (NOT IgG ) can often determine the trigger food. ● Food diary, for at least 2 weeks can be helpful in identifying food triggers, especially with repetitively eaten foods.● Food elimination and challenges based on the review of the blood tests and food diary.
● Avoidance of known food allergens. It is important to read labels and ask restaurants for a complete list of ingredients before eating foods.● Epipen (an adrenaline self-injectable) people with severe acute food allergies should carry one at all times. used in case of accidental ingestion of a known allergen.● ID bracelet for severe reactors, listing all their food allergies. ● For children with food allergies, school personnel including the teachers, administrators, and school nurses should be aware of the allergy and Epipen usage.