What Are Food Allergies?

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All human beings are programmed to have an innate desire to eat. We cannot do without food for prolonged time because our  body needs food to supply nutrients and all we need to build up and maintain our normal body functions.
In achieving this, there are certain people , whose body would produce certain chemicals that would interact with components of the food you eat, and cause a reaction. This is food allergy. It can manifest in various forms depending on your body make up, and the food ingested.

A food allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts unusually to specific foods. Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be very serious. Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be very serious. Symptoms of a food allergy can affect different areas of the body at the same time. Some common symptoms include: an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears
It is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Food allergy affects an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. While there’s no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older.
It’s easy to confuse a food allergy with a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. While bothersome, food intolerance is a less serious condition that does not involve the immune system.

Symptoms
In some people,  an allergic reaction to a particular food may be uncomfortable but not severe. For other people, an allergic food reaction can be frightening and even life-threatening. Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after eating the offending food.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
• Tingling or itching in the mouth
• Hives, itching or eczema
• Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
• Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
• Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
•     tingling or itching in the mouth
• a raised, itchy red rash (urticarial) – in some cases, the skin can turn red and itchy, but without a raised rash
• swelling of the face, mouth (angioedema), throat or other areas of the body
•     difficulty swallowing
•      shortness of breath
•      hay fever-like symptoms, such as sneezing or itchy eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)

Symptoms Of Anaphylaxis
The symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can be sudden and get worse very quickly.
Initial symptoms of anaphylaxis are often the same as those listed above and can lead to:
•    increased breathing difficulties – such as wheezing and a cough
• a sudden and intense feeling of anxiety and fear
• a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
• a sharp and sudden drop in your blood pressure, which can make you feel lightheaded and confused
• unconsciousness
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Without quick treatment, it can be life threatening. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing anaphylaxis, go to the hospital very quickly.
SEE A DOCTOR:
See a doctor or allergist if you have food allergy symptoms shortly after eating. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This will help your doctor make a diagnosis.
Seek emergency treatment if you develop any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as:
1. Constriction of airways that makes it difficult to breathe
2. Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
3. Rapid pulse
4. Dizziness or lightheadedness

Causes Of Food Allergies
Food allergies happen when the immune system – the body’s defence against infection – mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat. As a result, a number of chemicals are released. It’s these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are certain foods that are responsible for most food allergies.

In Childeren:

5. milk
6. eggs
7. peanuts
8. tree nuts
9. fish
10. shellfish

Most children that have a food allergy will have experienced eczema during infancy. The worse the child’s eczema and the earlier it started, the more likely they are to have a food allergy.

In Adults
11.    peanuts
12.    tree nuts – such as walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds and hazelnuts
13.    fruits – such as apples and peaches
14.    fish
15.    shellfish – such as crab, lobster and prawns

It’s still unknown why people develop allergies to food, although they often have other allergic conditions, such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.

Types of food allergies
Food allergies are divided into three types, depending on symptoms and when they occur.

• IgE-mediated food allergy – the most common type, triggered by the immune system producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Symptoms occur a few seconds or minutes after eating. There’s a greater risk of anaphylaxis with this type of allergy.
• non-IgE-mediated food allergy – these allergic reactions aren’t caused by immunoglobulin E, but by other cells in the immune system. This type of allergy is often difficult to diagnose as symptoms take much longer to develop (up to several hours).
• mixed IgE and non-IgE-mediated food allergies – some people may experience symptoms from both types.

Some people experience itchiness in their mouth and throat, sometimes with mild swelling, immediately after eating fresh fruit or vegetables. This is known as oral allergy syndrome.

• Oral allergy syndrome is caused by allergy antibodies mistaking certain proteins in fresh fruits, nuts or vegetables for pollen.

Oral allergy syndrome generally doesn’t cause severe symptoms, and it’s possible to deactivate the allergens by thoroughly cooking any fruit and vegetables.

Some people with pollen-food syndrome may have more severe symptoms.

HOW DO YOU TREAT ?
Treatment

The best way of preventing an allergic reaction is to identify the food that causes the allergy and avoid it. Research is currently looking at ways to desensitise some food allergens, such as peanuts and milk, but this is not an established treatment.

1. Avoid making any radical changes, such as cutting out dairy products, to your or your child’s diet without first talking to your GP. For some foods, such as milk, you may need to speak to a dietitian before making any changes.

2. A type of medication called an antihistamine can help relieve the symptoms of a mild or moderate allergic reaction. A higher dose of antihistamine is often needed to control acute allergic symptoms.

3.    Adrenaline is an effective treatment for more severe allergic symptoms, such as anaphylaxis. People with a food allergy are often given a device known as an auto-injector pen, which contains doses of adrenaline that can be used in emergencies.

What is food intolerance?
A food intolerance isn’t the same as a food allergy.
People with food intolerance may have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating and stomach cramps. This may be caused by difficulties digesting certain substances, such as lactose. However, no allergic reaction takes place.
Important differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance include:
•    the symptoms of a food intolerance usually occur several hours after eating the food
•    you need to eat a larger amount of food to trigger an intolerance than an allergy
•    a food intolerance is never life threatening, unlike an allergy.
Common conditions that can cause symptoms mistaken for a food allergy include:
Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. You may not have adequate amounts of some enzymes needed to digest certain foods. Insufficient quantities of the enzyme lactase, for example, reduce your ability to digest lactose, the main sugar in milk products. Lactose intolerance can cause bloating, cramping, diarrhea and excess gas.
1. Food poisoning. Sometimes food poisoning can mimic an allergic reaction. Bacteria in spoiled tuna and other fish also can make a toxin that triggers harmful reactions.
2. Sensitivity to food additives. Some people have digestive reactions and other symptoms after eating certain food additives. For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive people.
3. Histamine toxicity. Certain fish, such as tuna or mackerel, that are not refrigerated properly and that contain high amounts of bacteria may also contain high levels of histamine that trigger symptoms similar to those of food allergy. Rather than an allergic reaction, this is known as histamine toxicity or scombroid poisoning.
4. Celiac disease. While celiac disease is sometimes referred to as a gluten allergy, it does not result in anaphylaxis. Like a food allergy, it does involve an immune system response, but it’s a unique reaction that’s more complex than a simple food allergy.
5. This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in bread, pasta, cookies, and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.
6. If you have celiac disease and eat foods containing gluten, an immune reaction occurs that causes damage to the surface of your small intestine, leading to an inability to absorb certain nutrients.

Risk factors

Food allergy risk factors include:
• Family history. You’re at increased risk of food allergies if asthma, eczema, hives or allergies such as hay fever are common in your family.
Other allergies. If you’re already allergic to one food, you may be at increased risk of becoming allergic to another. Similarly, if you have other types of allergic reactions, such as hay fever or eczema, your risk of having a food allergy is greater.

• Age. Food allergies are more common in children, especially toddlers and infants. As you grow older, your digestive system matures and your body is less likely to absorb food or food components that trigger allergies.

Fortunately, children typically outgrow allergies to milk, soy, wheat and eggs. Severe allergies and allergies to nuts and shellfish are more likely to be lifelong.
• Asthma. Asthma and food allergy commonly occur together. When they do, both food allergy and asthma symptoms are more likely to be severe.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing an anaphylactic reaction include:
• Having a history of asthma
• Being a teenager or younger
• Delaying use of epinephrine to treat your food allergy symptoms
• Not having hives or other skin symptoms

Complications

Complications of food allergy can include:

•    Anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening allergic reaction.
•    Atopic dermatitis (eczema). Food allergy may cause a skin reaction, such as eczema.

Prevention

The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to know and avoid foods that cause signs and symptoms. For some people, this is a mere inconvenience, but others find it a greater hardship. Also, some foods — when used as ingredients in certain dishes — may be well-hidden. This is especially true in restaurants and in other social settings.

If you know you have a food allergy, follow these steps:

1.    Know what you’re eating and drinking. Be sure to read food labels carefully.
2.    If you have already had a severe reaction, wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that lets others know that you have a food allergy in case you have a reaction and you’re unable to communicate.
Talk with your doctor about prescribing emergency epinephrine. You may need to carry an epinephrine autoinjector (Adrenaclick, EpiPen) if you’re at risk of a severe allergic reaction.

3.    Be careful at restaurants. Be certain your server or chef is aware that you absolutely can’t eat the food you’re allergic to, and you need to be completely certain that the meal you order doesn’t contain it. Also, make sure food isn’t prepared on surfaces or in pans that contained any of the food you’re allergic to.

Don’t be reluctant to make your needs known. Restaurant staff members are usually more than happy to help when they clearly understand your request.
Plan meals and snacks before leaving home. If necessary, take a cooler packed with allergen-free foods when you travel or go to an event. If you or your child can’t have the cake or dessert at a party, bring an approved special treat so no one feels left out of the celebration.