What are food allergies?
Food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body to food. [this is a definition]It is estimated to affect nearly 25% of the population in India, with children more susceptible than adults.
Food allergies can affect many systems in the body, particularly the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory, or cardiovascular system.
Certain foods are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than others.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), these are the 8 foods that cause nearly 90% of all food allergies.
Which are the foods that cause the most allergies?
Eight kind of foods cause 90% of all food allergies:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts
What are the symptoms of food allergies?
The common symptoms of food allergies can be classified as mild or severe depending on the intensity of the reaction.
Mild symptoms of food allergies:
- stuffy or runny nose
- itchy, watery eyes
- stomach cramps
Severe symptoms of food allergies:
- difficulty breathing, including wheezing
- swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
- hives (an itchy, blotchy, and raised rash)
- dizziness or faintness
- nausea or vomiting
The mild and severe symptoms of food allergies may happen suddenly or develop over several hours. Food allergies can be life-threatening if it affects breathing. Hence individuals with asthma are at an increased risk of a fatal allergic reaction to food.
What is milk allergy?
Milk allergy is a result of the body’s reaction to whey or casein- a protein in cow’s milk. It is one of the most studied allergies. Children who are allergic to milk are more susceptible to be allergic to other foods like eggs, soy, and peanuts.
Children with milk allergies are also prone to atopic diseases like asthma, eczema, or allergic rhinitis. Milk allergy is not to be confused with lactose intolerance, which is a type of intolerance to a carbohydrate called lactose in dairy products.
How is egg allergy caused?
Egg allergies are due to certain proteins in either the yolk or the egg white. While some people are allergic to both the egg white and the yolk, some may be tolerant to one of them.
Egg allergies are most common among children, though this usually gets cured at a young age. Yet, some individuals may remain allergic to eggs all their lives.
What are peanut allergies?
Peanut allergies are particularly worrying since it is a lifelong ailment. Moreover, an individual is always at a risk of an accidental exposure to peanuts. The most severe kind of peanut allergy is anaphylaxis. This is, however, a rare occurrence.
Anaphylaxis could result in a cardiac arrest or impede breathing, and hence requires immediate medical intervention. This involves getting a shot of epinephrine. Individuals are usually kept under surveillance for several hours post the epinephrine shot to ensure that the symptoms don’t recur.
Other common allergies
Some of the other common, but lesser known food allergies are soy, wheat, shellfish, and tree nut allergies. Other than the fact that these are lifelong ailments, very less is known about them.
How to diagnose a food allergy?
Food allergies are diagnosed based on the severity of the symptoms. For mild reactions, doctors may suggest keeping a record of all the foods consumed so as to find the exact source.
Another way to do this is to withdraw specific foods from the diet, and introduce them again to see if the symptoms recur.
A blood test or a skin test is used to diagnose severe forms like egg, milk, and shellfish allergies.
How to treat food allergies?
When it comes to allergies, avoidance is the best course of action. This would mean being careful while buying food at a restaurant or a supermarket. Doctors may prescribe steroids to treat severe reactions.
Steroids may produce serious side-effects and should be used with discretion. Mild symptoms are treated with over-the-counter antihistamines or may not require any treatment at all.
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