Next week is… you guessed it – Food Allergy Awareness Week in your community. You know, that time of year when you and all your loved ones gather together, potluck style, to help raise awareness of food allergy as a serious public health issue. Remember the shrimp and pecan salad you made last year? — man, that was good!
All kidding aside, there are some serious allergic reactions that coincide with many food allergies, some even fatal, and being informed and familiar with warning signs may wind up saving somebody’s life. So let’s jump in.
A food allergy is an adverse immune reaction to a food protein. They are far more serious than other adverse responses to food, such as intolerance, toxin-mediated reactions, and pharmacological reactions. While some medications may prevent, minimize or treat protein allergy reactions, there is no known cure.
A note for parents
Don’t start to panic if you’re a parent reading this “NO KNOWN CURE” looks discouraging but in actuality, many children outgrow a food allergy as they age and often food intolerance are misdiagnosed as allergies. While exasperating, food intolerance is a far less serious condition that does not involve the entire immune system.
It doesn’t take much…
As most people with a food allergy know, even a minuscule amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger common symptoms such as digestive problems, swollen airways, or hives. In rare cases a food allergy may even be life threatening when a reaction known as anaphylaxis is developed (more on this below).
Symptoms and Warning Signs
For some, an allergic reaction means a period of discomfort while others need to act quickly in order to save their life — a wide range, we know.Allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to an hour after eating the offending food.
Some common symptoms:
- Tingling or itching around the mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and/or throat.
CALL 911 or get to an emergency clinic immediately
- Constriction or tightening of airways
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Shock, with a severe drop on blood pressure
- A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in the throat making it difficult to breathe
The majority of food allergies are triggered by proteins found in:
- Peanuts, Walnuts, Pecans
Are you or your children at risk of developing food allergies?
A few food allergy risk factors are out there that include:
If you have a family history of asthma, hives, or other allergies you have an increased risk of a food allergy.
While many children outgrow their food allergies, in some cases they return later in life. The most common food allergies that fade with age are: wheat, milk, soy, and eggs. Allergies like shellfish or nuts are likely to pervade into adulthood.
What comes to mind is the stereotypical geek that we all think of from high school with the inhaler and the food allergies – well, there’s a degree of truth to that. Asthma and food allergies typically go hand-in-hand since both are allergic disorders that can trigger each other.