Understanding the Basics of Food Allergies
Food allergies are a growing problem in the United States, with an estimated 8% of children and 5% of adults having food allergies. A food allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts to a specific food as if it were dangerous, even though it is not. Food allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild to life-threatening. It is important for those with food allergies to understand the basics of food allergies, so they can take proactive steps to manage and protect themselves from reactions.
What Causes a Food Allergy?
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakes a harmless food for a dangerous one. This causes the body to create antibodies to fight off the perceived “invader.” These antibodies cause the release of certain chemicals, such as histamine, which trigger allergic reactions.
Which Foods Cause Allergies?
Food allergies can be caused by any food, but there are some foods that are more likely to cause reactions. The eight foods that are most commonly associated with food allergies are: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.
Common Symptoms of a Food Allergy
The symptoms of a food allergy can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include itching, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, a food allergy can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest pain, a drop in blood pressure, and unconsciousness.
Diagnosing Food Allergies
If you suspect that you have a food allergy, it is important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and get tested. Your doctor may conduct a physical exam and take a medical history. He or she may also order a blood test, skin prick test, or an elimination diet.
Managing Food Allergies
The best way to manage a food allergy is to avoid the food that causes the reaction. This means being aware of the ingredients in all foods and checking food labels. It is also important to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency.
Food allergies can be a serious problem, but with the right information and support, they can be managed. It is important for those with food allergies to understand the basics of food allergies, so they can take proactive steps to protect themselves from reactions. It is also important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and get tested, so that you can make an informed decision about how to manage your food allergies.