In the past few years, Food allergies have gained a lot of importance. Dietary changes, lifestyle diseases and environmental changes have contributed a lot to food allergies.
Food allergies play a major role in asthma in early childhood.
What are the most important foods that cause allergies?
Allergy is caused by allergy causing proteins in certain kinds of food.
The big 8 foods causing allergies are:
Why are food allergies so important?
First and foremost, food allergies can be life threatening!
- People can be so sensitive to food that even a whiff of the particular food can cause a fatal allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Traces of the food in the dishes or spoons used to serve another food are known to cause such a fatal reaction
- This is the reason why peanuts are not served on airlines anymore
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is an extremely severe reaction of the body’s immune system in response to an allergy causing substance. It is extremely common with food allergies.
It’s symptoms are:
- Anxiety, a feeling that something is not right
- increased pulse rate
- swelling of the lips , tongue and face leading to swelling of the voice box
- choking, difficulty in breathing
Anaphylaxis can happen in seconds. It needs immediate treatment.
- Preferably allergy causing patients should carry bracelets or cards stating their allergies
- They should inform the hotel or other staff or wherever they are having food about their allergies.
- Most important, Epi-pen injectors should be carried by the patient at all times.
How is Epi-pen administered?
It is to be given deep intramuscular on the outer part of the thigh. Instructions should be followed as provided by the packaging . Correct procedure and sufficient time should be given for the medication to enter the body.
If you are diagnosed with severe allergies, your health care provider will give you instructions and training on how to use the above device.
How do I know if me/ my child has a food allergy?
Symptoms develop immediately after ingesting the particular food. they are
- Nausea, vomiting ,diarrhea, bloating
- rashes and itching
- urticaria and swelling of the lips and face
- stuffy and runny nose
- Even fatal reactions can occur
Food allergies can be detected by
- Skin prick testing
- Oral food challenge test. This has a high risk of anaphylaxis and has to be done in a hospital setting.
- small quantities of food are administered in increasing strength every half hour till the patient shows a reaction to that particular food. various trials are done and a placebo can be used to differentiate sometimes.
How to treat food allergies?
Prevention is better than cure
- Once the particular food allergy has been identified, the patient has to avoid it completely.
- Immunotherapy consists of administering small doses of allergens in increasing quantity till your body gets used to the allergen.
- Oral and sublingual immunotherapy is available for food, which is safer that subcutaneous immunotherapy. However, depending on the severity of the disease, therapy in food allergy carries a high risk of fatal reactions
- After success of immunotherapy, it is advised to continue the same food daily in small quantities to avoid relapse of the allergies
- Please conduct any immunotherapy only if advised under the strict guidance and supervision of your allergy specialist!
What is the difference between allergy and intolerance?
- Allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a foreign protein
- Intolerance is the absence of enzymes required to digest the particular food, such as in lactose intolerance, or autoimmune disorder of the gut in gluten intolerance or coeliac disease.
- symptoms of intolerance are bloating, stomach upset, diarrhoea.
- intolerance can be treated by substitution of enzyme lactase, (sachets are available for this)in lactose intolerance and by totally avoiding gluten based products in coeliac disease.