Understanding Allergies & Food
Food allergies affect not only the individual, but their family and friends as well. Family shopping plans and diets may need to be adjusted in order to avoid an allergic reaction. Eating out at a restaurant with friends may also become a challenge. Oftentimes, knowing what foods can trigger an allergic reaction is only half the battle.
Allergic reactions happen when the immune system reacts to a trigger in the environment. Sometimes, that trigger is a food item.
8 Most Common Food Allergies
The most common food allergies can be found in many everyday foods, such as:
- Tree nuts (such as almonds and walnuts)
- Fish (such as tuna, salmon, and sardines)
- Shellfish (such as shrimp, crab, and lobster)
All possible food allergies aren’t limited to this list. Everyone is different, and sometimes the most unexpected food item will cause an allergic response. For example, some additives, such as dyes or preservatives, can trigger an immune response or intolerance.
Allergy-causing foods affect both adults and children. Recognizing the symptoms of an allergic reaction will help you know when to seek treatment.
Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergy
Many people have sensitivities towards certain types of foods. These are classified as food intolerances, and should not be confused with food allergies.
Common food intolerances include:
- Lactose intolerance
- Food additives
- Sulfites (often found naturally occurring in wine)
- Gluten intolerance
Consult with your doctor if you are not sure whether you have a food allergy or intolerance. They will be able to identify what your specific diagnosis is, and the best way to treat your food allergy or intolerance.
Symptoms of a Food Allergy
Reading all food labels is a great way to avoid accidentally ingesting allergy triggers. When you’re at a restaurant, ask the restaurant staff if the food you’re ordering contains any ingredients which you are allergic to. Despite your diligence, it’s still possible that you can come into contact with a food you are allergic to unintentionally.
Symptoms of food allergy include:
- Swelling of the lips and tongue
- Itching in the mouth
- Tightening of the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal cramps or pain, diarrhea and vomiting
- Worsening eczema symptoms
- Drop in blood pressure
Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS)
OAS is an allergy to specific raw fruits or vegetables. OAS can cause itching or swelling in the mouth, lips, throat and tongue. OAS can also cause watery or itchy eyes. A person with OAS may develop a rash just from handling a raw trigger food. Once the trigger food is cooked, it is safe for a person with OAS to eat. This is because cooking breaks down the proteins that trigger OAS.
OAS trigger foods include:
- Green peppers
Anaphylaxis is a very severe form of food allergy that can be life-threatening. There are many potential symptoms of anaphylaxis which vary from person to person.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can appear within minutes of exposure to the trigger food. In some cases, symptoms last for a while, subside, and return again hours later. The severity of the attacks are unpredictable, as the intensity of one does not indicate the intensity of the next.
Symptoms may include two or more of the following:
- Redness or rash
- Swelling of the skin
- Itchiness on the body or mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Tight throat and/or difficulty swallowing
- Weak pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness or fainting
- Intestinal cramps
Anaphylaxis from a food allergy can easily become life threatening. If you or a loved one has an anaphylactic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.