Food Allergy

Table of Contents

What is Food Allergy

Food allergies are your immune system’s reactions that appear shortly after consuming a certain type of food. In general, an allergic reaction will appear after a few minutes to an hour. 

Foods that are commonly known to trigger allergies in adults include legumes as well as seafood such as shrimp, lobster, and crab. Meanwhile, food allergies in children can be triggered by foods such as nuts, milk, and eggs.

Food allergies in adults may not disappear with age, but it is a different case with food allergies in children – it is possible for a child to no longer experience food allergies.

Causes of Food Allergy

Food allergies involve two parts of your body’s immune system. The first is immunoglobulin (IgE), a type of antibody that moves through the blood. The second is mastosit (mast cells) that are found in several areas such as your nose, throat, lungs, skin, as well as the digestive tract.

The type of food that causes a food allergy contains an allergy-trigger substance called an allergen. When consuming these types of foods, the contained allergens make contact with IgE and trigger mastosites to produce histamine.

This histamine substance causes the symptoms of food allergy. In addition, the natural properties of allergens cannot be broken down either by food processing or by enzymes in the digestive system. This makes it easier for allergens to move into the bloodstream throughout your body.

When to See a Doctor for Food Allergy

Considering that there are several health conditions that have symptoms similar to food allergies, it is recommended that you consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

You should consult your doctor immediately. It is preferable if you speak to your doctor when your body seems to react to food allergies. 

To diagnose you, your doctor will likely ask the following questions:

  • Does your body react quickly, approximately within an hour after consuming food?
  • Does anyone else eat the same food? Do they also have the same reaction?
  • How much food do you consume before your body reacts?
  • How is the food processed and prepared?
  • Are there any other foods you consume at the same time?
  • Do you take medications afterwards, such as antihistamines?
  • Does your body always react after you consume the food?

In some cases, your doctor will likely ask you to record the food you consume. From the food diary, your doctor can identify if there is a specific pattern indicating if you experience a food allergy.

If your doctor suspects that you have an allergy to certain foods, he or she will ask you to stop eating them for some time. If your body has the same reaction when you consume these foods, this is a strong indication that you do have an allergy.

Then, you will be asked to re-consume the food and monitor if a similar reaction appears. If so, it can be confirmed that you have a food allergy.

However, this does not apply if your body’s reactions are quite chronic or if it appears only occasionally.

Below are some possible tests that may be performed to diagnose your food allergy: 

Skin Tests

A skin test is carried out by placing a small amount of food extract that contains an allergen on your arm or your back. Then, your doctor will pierce your skin with a needle to inject the food extract deeper. If you have an allergy to the food extract being tested, you will develop a bump on your skin. 

It should be noted that if your skin test shows a positive result, you will still need to get a follow-up test to confirm your diagnosis. 

Blood Tests

A blood test serves to measure the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that may appear when your blood sample is given an allergen extract. The test is done by taking a blood sample from your body, which will then be sent to a medical laboratory for testing.

Symptoms of Food Allergy

Food allergy symptoms can vary from person to person and it is possible that you experience different reactions at different times. Here are some common symptoms of a food allergy:

  • Itchy lips
  • Nasal congestion
  • Appearance of red spots, hives, or eczema
  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, throat, face, or other parts of the body
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or even vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting

Some people may have severe reactions, or also known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic symptoms may include: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat or swollen throat
  • Fast-beating heart 
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting

Anaphylaxis, if not treated appropriately, can put your life at risk. You may increase your risk of getting a anaphylactic reaction if you have a history of asthma, are still young, and do not treat your allergy symptoms right away. 

However, some reactions that appear after consuming certain foods often do not indicate that you have an allergy. There are some health conditions that have similar symptoms to allergies. For example, food poisoning, histamine poisoning, lactose intolerant and gluten intolerance.

Food poisoning occurs when you consume food contaminated with bacteria and toxins. Histamine poisoning occurs when you consume foods that contain high levels of histamine. Foods that are high in histamine can be found in certain types of cheese, wine, and improperly ice-stored fish.

Lactose intolerance is when your body cannot digest lactose – the main carbohydrate contained in dairy products. If you have lactose intolerance, you may experience bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Almost similar to lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance is your body’s inability to digest gluten properly. Gluten is a type of protein that can usually be found in wheat. In general, gluten is safe to consume unless you have gluten intolerance. 

Food allergies can happen to anyone but there are several factors that can increase the risk of having a food allergy. These factors are as follows:

Family History

If your parents have a food allergy, you will likely also experience food allergies.

Other allergies

If you already have an allergy to a particular food, you have a higher risk of an allergy to another food. The same thing applies if you have other types of allergies, such as dust allergies.

Age Factor

Infants and children are quite susceptible to food allergies. However, as you get older, your digestive system usually improves, which means you may not continue to have your allergies during childhood. Unfortunately, in severe allergies, you may still likely experience it until you become an adult.

Asthma

Asthma and allergies are closely related and generally occur simultaneously. When it happens, both asthma and allergies are likely to worsen the condition.

Treatment Cost for Food Allergy

Treatment cost for food allergy varies depending on the hospital chosen as well as the severity of your allergy condition. To find out the estimated cost for food allergy treatment, hospital recommendations, and make a doctor’s appointment, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Food Allergy

Considering that there are several health conditions that have symptoms similar to food allergies, it is recommended that you consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

You should consult your doctor immediately. It is preferable if you speak to your doctor when your body seems to react to food allergies. 

To make your diagnosis, your doctor will likely ask the following questions:

  • Does your body react quickly, approximately within an hour after consuming food?
  • Does anyone else eat the same food? Do they also have the same reaction?
  • How much food do you consume before your body reacts?
  • How is the food processed and prepared?
  • Are there any other foods you consume at the same time?
  • Do you take medications afterwards, such as antihistamines?
  • Does your body always react after you consume the food?

In some cases, your doctor will likely ask you to record the food you consume. From the food diary, your doctor can identify if there is a specific pattern indicating if you experience a food allergy.

If your doctor suspects that you have an allergy to certain foods, he or she will ask you to stop eating them for some time. If your body has the same reaction when you consume these foods, this is a strong indication that you do have an allergy.

Then, you will be asked to re-consume the food and monitor if a similar reaction appears. If so, it can be confirmed that you have a food allergy.

However, this does not apple if your body’s reactions are quite chronic or if it appears only occasionally.

Home Remedies for Food Allergy

There are several home remedies to treat food allergy.

For example, bathing in warm water to relieve itching, applying cool compress to the affected skin, as well as applying creams or lotions on rashes. Corticosteroid lotions as well as calamine lotion can help treat inflamed skin.

In addition, drink plenty of water especially if you experience diarrhea and vomiting as your body’s reaction to food allergies. Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. Thus, be sure to maintain the balance of your daily nutrients and fluids intake. 

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