When it comes to food allergies, there's a lot of mistaken information out there for identifying and coping with these serious problems. Food allergies are so much more than a simple upset stomach or an intolerance or sensitivity to something like dairy. According to Food Allergy Research & Education, 15 million people in the United States, including 1 in every 13 children, suffer from this serious medical condition. Take a look below to learn more about the specifics of food allergies.
Food allergies occur when your immune system lashes out and attacks foreign elements that it deems dangerous to your body. Even your immune system slips up occasionally, though. When it mistakenly singles out a food that should be considered harmless, such as a peanut, and sees it as a threat, your body's automatic response is to attack and destroy it.
Food allergies are different than intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods because of the antibody involved. When we experience an allergic reaction to a food, this means that our immune system is producing abnormal amounts of immunoglobulin E (or IgE), an antibody that is known the fight foreign food allergens by releasing chemicals like histamine into the blood stream. When these chemicals are fired into our system, they trigger a series of symptoms that make up an allergic reaction.
>> Read more: Boost Your Immunity Every Day with Probiotics
While any food can trigger an allergic reaction, 90 percent of all allergic reactions are caused by these 8 common foods: (via Medical News Today)
- Tree nuts (including, but not limited to, hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds)
- Peanuts: Click here to get the skinny on peanut allergies and asthma!
- Shellfish (like shrimp, mussels and crab)
- Soya (a product used in about two-thirds of all manufactured foods)
- Wheat: Gluten Free? Stay Away from These 10 Foods!
The symptoms of a food allergy can affect the entire body. Common reactions typically impact the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and on severe occasions, the cardiovascular system. Reactions can appear minutes, or even hours, after consuming a specific food, and can present themselves in a variety of different ways. Some of the more mild reactions you might experience include:
- Vomiting and/or stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Repetitive cough
- Shock or circulatory collapse
- Tight, hoarse throat; trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the tongue, affecting the ability to talk or breathe
- Pale or blue coloring of skin
- Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that can impair breathing and send the body into shock.
For a complete list, check out the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology here.
While the only way to completely cure a food allergy is to avoid the offending food, there are a variety of different ways to treat food allergies. For mild allergies, like itching, sneezing, hives and rashes, you should use antihistamines, asthma medications, and oral or topical steroids. More serious reactions, like anaphylaxis, will require an epinephrine injection. Remember that following a self-administration of epinephrine, you should always visit the nearest emergency room for further evaluation and instructions.
>> Read more: Dealing With My Child's Food Allergy
Food allergies can be very serious, so make sure you research safe treatment options for you and your family! Feel free to check out our sources here: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Medical News Today, and Food Allergy Research and Education.