Ask Your Doctor: FOOD ALLERGIES

anguillian
By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:21 Updated

 

Food allergies are very common especially among children, but of growing concern is the fact that many people of an older age are also developing food allergies. Symptoms of food allergies vary – some can be very mild but in some cases the symptoms can be very severe and can be life threatening.
Food allergies
Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms. Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be very serious.
Symptoms of a food allergy can affect different areas of the body at the same time.
Some people 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.
There is much evidence that there are increasing incidents of people developing food allergies especially in the last twenty years.

What causes the increased incidence of food allergies?
The number of cases of food allergies have rapidly increased in the past 20 years. It is difficult to determine exactly why the numbers are increasing. It appears to be the result of environmental factors, but our own immunology may be evolving and changing as well.
Of growing concern is that more people are developing food allergies later in life and it is no longer a condition of childhood.
Most food allergies affect younger children under the age of three. It is estimated that around 1 in every 14 children of this age has at least one food allergy.
Most children who have food allergies to milk, eggs, soya and wheat in early life will grow out of them by the time they start school.

What are some common foods causing allergies?
Several foods can cause an allergic reaction but the following 8 foods are responsible for 90 percent of all food allergies:
• cow’s milk
• eggs
• peanuts
• fish
• shellfish
• tree nuts – such as cashews or walnuts
• wheat
• soy
What is an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction is governed by the immune system. The immune system controls a variety of blood proteins called antibodies which seek out invaders such as bacteria and viruses. When a person has a food allergy, the body mistakenly identifies a food protein as being dangerous. The antibody immunoglobin E (IgE) essentially attacks that protein with an onslaught of chemicals that lead to the symptoms that occurs.

Symptoms of food allergies
Symptoms of food allergies may range from mild to severe. They may come on suddenly or develop over several hours.
A person’s immune system may react to a small amount of the allergen, so food allergies can be particularly dangerous and life-threatening, especially if breathing is affected. Because food allergies can affect breathing, people with asthma are at an increased risk of a fatal allergic reaction to food.
Mild symptoms related to a food allergy may include:
• sneezing
• stuffy or runny nose
• itchy, watery eyes
• swelling
• rash
• stomach cramps
• diarrhea
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) to food are:
• difficulty breathing, including wheezing
• swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
• hives (an itchy, blotchy, and raised rash)
• dizziness or faintness
• nausea or vomiting

Anaphylaxis
In the most serious cases, a person has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) which can be life threatening.
If you think someone has the symptoms of anaphylaxis – such as breathing difficulties, lightheadedness, and feeling like he/she is going to faint or lose consciousness – call 991.
Ask for an ambulance and tell the operator you think the person has anaphylaxis or “anaphylactic shock”.

Diagnosing a food allergy
The way food allergies are diagnosed usually depends on the severity of symptoms.
If your symptoms are mild, a doctor may recommend keeping a food diary to record all the foods you eat or drink to pinpoint the culprit. Another way to diagnose a mild food allergy is to remove certain foods from the diet and then slowly reintroduce them to find out if symptoms return.
In the case of more severe allergies, skin or blood tests can identify egg, milk, nut, and shellfish allergies.

Treatment
Treatment will vary depending on the severity of signs and symptoms.
As with other types of allergies, avoidance is often the best medicine.
Mild symptoms may not require any treatment at all, or a simple over-the-counter antihistamine may resolve the symptoms.
For more serious allergic reactions, a doctor may prescribe steroid medications. Steroids may have serious side effects and should not be used for more than a few days at a time.
Conclusion
Food allergies affect many individuals especially children. Symptoms vary from mild to very severe. In severe cases, urgent treatment is required. If you think someone is having an anaphylactic reaction to a particular food seek urgent attention.

 

 

anguillian
By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:21 Updated

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