Over 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies and that number is on the rise. With 1 in 13 children (under age 18) diagnosed with a life threatening food allergy, it is imperative that you understand what you are allergic to, how to respond to a reaction and how to avoid your food allergies.
Food allergy is an exaggerated immune response to a food protein, an allergen. The body mistakes the food protein as “dangerous” and attacks it, which produces an antibody called Immunoglobulin (IGe). This IGe antibody reacts with the allergen and results in a food allergy reaction. Other food disorders, such as intolerances, are not “IGe mediated,” meaning that a food you encounter may affect your digestive system, but not your immune system.
Food allergy reactions can be life threatening, it is important to meet with a board certified allergist to understand what you are allergic to and how to respond to a reaction. Food allergies are prevalent in all ages, but are most commonly found in children. Although people can be allergic to almost any food, there are eight that account for 90 percent of food allergy reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Food allergy reactions usually occur within minutes of eating a food, but reactions can be delayed up to a couple of hours. Reactions can be variable and can include symptoms such as hives, swelling, itchy skin, runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, lightheadedness, throat swelling or trouble breathing.
The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction that can impair your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in your blood pressure and affect your heart rate. Anaphylaxis can come on within minutes of exposure to the trigger food. It can be fatal and must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).
If you think you may have a food allergy, our allergy specialists will help you identify which foods you may be allergic to. We will conduct a detailed medical history, allergy skin tests, allergy blood tests and if necessary, an oral food challenge to determine whether or not you are allergic. Allergy skin testing is the most effective and accurate way of evaluating allergies. These tests are safe for adults and children of all ages, minimally invasive and produce results within minutes.
Being diagnosed with a food allergy can be scary, so the most important aspect of treatment is an accurate diagnosis. At Charleston Allergy & Asthma, we will help you learn how to manage your condition and minimize its impact on your life. Patients who are found to be allergic will receive education on how to avoid coming in contact with your food allergens, as well as, how to treat a food allergy reaction if one occurs. Fortunately, many children will outgrow their food allergies over time and we will be able to help you know when it will be safe to return to eating that particular food again.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for food allergies. Currently, avoidance is the only effective treatment. Always read labels and remember to have your epinephrine auto injector with you at all times. Your first line of treatment should always be epinephrine and then proceed immediately to the ER.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
If you suffer from pollen allergies, it is possible that certain foods you ingest may give you the sensation of mouth or throat itching. Patients with tree and/or weed pollen allergies may experience these symptoms when they eat certain fresh fruits or vegetables. This is called cross-reactivity and it is important that you contact your board certified allergist to advise them of these symptoms.
If you believe you or someone in your family may have a food allergy, please make an appointment today so we can help you get the diagnosis and information you need.