What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is an unusual reaction of your body’s immune system after you have eaten certain foods. If you are allergic to any specific foods, eating even small amounts of that food item may trigger a food allergy. The symptoms of this kind of an allergy vary from one person to another, although the common signs include itching, swelling of the face and mouth, and nasal congestion. If you suspect you have food allergies, visit a doctor to get an official diagnosis. Read more about food allergy in this article.

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Food allergies are responses of your immune system that occur a little while after you consume certain foods. Even if you consume the tiniest amount of the allergy-giving food, symptoms of food allergies can be triggered. These include everything from hives or swollen air passages to digestive issues. In particular people, a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis may occur. Food allergies affect children under the age of 3 predominantly,and some children outgrow them. Up to 3% of adults are affected by allergies from certain foods. Many a time, you tend to confuse a food allergy with a more common response called a food intolerance. While it tends to be bothersome, a food intolerance is less serious and doesn’t have anything to do with your immune system.

What is a Food Allergy?

When does an allergy occur? It occurs when the natural defenses of your body excessively respond to exposure to a specific substance, seeing it as an invader. The immune system then sends out chemicals in order to defend your body against it. Millions around the globe have food allergies that develop in childhood. They may outgrow this, but at times, it carries over into adulthood. Allergies to food in adulthood are rare, unless the person hasn’t detected them before and has a particular food for the first time. Foods that cause allergies may not have caused allergies in the past, but doctors don’t have a reason for why this may take place.

What are the Symptoms of Food Allergy?

What is the work of the immune system of the human body? It maintains your health by warding off infections and other threats to a healthy body. Symptoms and signs of food allergies vary from mild to serious. Furthermore, if a specific food has caused mild symptoms at one time, it may cause serious ones at another. Symptoms typically occur in a few minutes to a few hours after consuming a particular food. Here are common signs and symptoms of a food allergy:

  • An itching sensation in the mouth

  • Pain in the abdomen, vomiting or nausea, diarrhea

  • Eczema, itching, hives

  • Dizziness, fainting or feeling light-headed

  • Tingling in the mouth

  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat or other body parts

  • Nasal congestion, wheezing or trouble taking breaths

In rare cases, food allergy may spark a serious allergic response known as anaphylaxis. This causes potentially life-damaging symptoms that include:

  • Rapid pulse rate

  • Tightening and constriction of air passages

  • Sudden drop in blood pressure, causing shock

  • Swelling in the throat and a feeling like there is obstruction

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness and sometimes, losing consciousness.

Food allergies treatments in cases of anaphylaxis are emergency therapies as left untreated, it can result in coma, and even death.

What are the Causes of Food Allergy?

The biological response that causes the actual allergy to take place is caused by your immune system’s response. It reacts to a protein in a specific food, perceiving it as a danger to the body, and responds accordingly by transmitting IgE antibodies that play a role in the attack of this particular protein. When you eat the food repeatedly, your antibodies are prepped for your immune system to react instantly with chemicals like histamine and others. These go straight into your bloodstream and cause food allergies. Histamine, in particular, makes blood vessels expand and the skin becomes swollen/inflamed. The nerves get affected too, making you feel itchy. The nose also produces more mucus, and this tends to make it stuffy and runny. Additionally, you are at risk for developing food allergies if:

  • You have a history of food allergies in your family. If close members of your family have any allergy issues or asthma, or even seasonal allergies, you could be at risk for a potential food allergy affecting you.

  • One allergy leads to another. A child who exhibits one allergy may develop one more. Such allergies include food allergies, seasonal allergies and asthma.

  • Gut bacteria plays a role. Research has shown that people with allergies to nuts have an altered state of gut bacteria, with levels that are different from the normal.

Ways of Transmission

Food allergies are transmitted through the foods you consume. Foods that warrant allergic reactions and account for almost 90% of food allergies are the following:

  • Eggs

  • Milk

  • Soya beans

  • Fish (including shellfish like crab, lobster and shrimp)

  • Tree nuts (walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, etc.)

  • Groundnuts

  • Peanuts

  • Wheat

Other foods that contain allergens that cause food allergies include mustard, sesame and celery.

Diagnosis of Food Allergy

An allergist is a professional who deals with food allergies in affected people. To make a diagnosis, the allergist will ask you about reactions to food and will want to discover food allergies causes by:

  • finding out about symptoms that occur

  • asking about the duration between food intake and symptoms

  • asking which foods cause symptoms

  • wanting to find out whether food consumed is cooked

  • discovering where the food is consumed

The allergist may ask you about any other allergies you may have,and will likely do a skin test and a blood test for an accurate diagnosis.

What is the Treatment for a Food Allergy?

Conventional treatment includes eliminating the allergy-producing food from your diet. However, symptoms can be treated when they raise their ugly heads with:

  • Oral immunotherapy, which involves giving you gradually higher amounts of an allergen to raise the reaction threshold

  • Medications, such as antihistamines which are effective for mild to moderate food allergies.

  • Epinephrine, given to severe cases of anaphylaxis. It clears the airways and keeps blood pressure at healthy levels.

Summing it Up

Food allergies are no walk in the park and they can be debilitating for some people. If you think you may get sick from a food allergy and are bothered by the fact that you may need advanced medical care, you need not worry about the expenses. Simply get a health insurance plan that helps you manage the cost easily.

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