What Is The Outlook For People With Food Allergies
You can live a healthy life with a food allergy. If you have a food allergy, you need to carefully avoid all foods and ingredients that cause allergic reactions.
You may also need to take a nutritional supplement to replace any nutrients lost by avoiding your trigger foods. Speak with your healthcare provider or dietitian before starting a new eating plan.
How Common Are Food Allergies And Intolerances
Food allergies affect about 1 percent of adults and 7 percent of children, although some children outgrow their allergies. Food intolerances are much more common. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate. Some people have specific food intolerances. Lactose intolerance, the most common specific food intolerance, affects about 10 percent of Americans.
Not All Reactions To Food Are Allergies
Not everyone who has a reaction to eating certain foods has a food allergy or needs to avoid that food entirely. For instance, some people may think they have food allergies because they get an itchy mouth and throat after eating raw or uncooked fruits or vegetables, but this may actually indicate oral allergy syndrome, which is a reaction to pollen, not to the food itself.
There’s also a difference between food allergies and food intolerances. Intolerances to foods can cause symptoms like bloating and stomach cramps, which usually occur several hours after eating. In addition, people with intolerances can usually tolerate small amounts of the troublesome foods. That’s a pretty significant difference from allergic reactions to foods, which usually occur quickly and can be life-threatening, even from only tiny amounts of the food.
Celiac disease is often confused with wheat allergy and gluten intolerance, but it is actually an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own cells. For those with celiac disease, eating gluten causes the body to literally damage and destroy the lining of the small intestine. The results might not be as immediate as anaphylaxis, but they can be just as scary.
If you think you might have a food allergy, your best bet is to see a doctor and get testedbefore you might have a serious reaction.
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What Increases Your Risk
You have a greater chance of developing food allergies if you:
- Have a family history of allergy. If both of your parents have allergies, you are more likely to have allergies.
- Have another allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis or asthma.
- Are young. Infants and children have more food allergies than adults.
You have a greater risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction from food allergy if you:
- Have asthma.
- Under-utilize or delay the use of epinephrine.
- Have an underlying cardiac disease.
- Have had a previous anaphylactic reaction.
If you or your child has a severe food allergy, always carry epinephrine and know how to use it. You should also wear a medical alert bracelet at all times. Being prepared to immediately deal with a severe allergic reaction reduces the risk of death.
The 8 Most Common Food Allergies
Food allergies are extremely common. In fact, they affect around 5% of adults and 8% of children and these percentages are rising .
Interestingly, although its possible for any food to cause an allergy, most food allergies are caused by just eight foods .
This article is a detailed review of the 8 most common food allergies. It discusses their symptoms, who is at risk and what you can do about it.
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Q How Many People Have Food Allergies
A. Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions latest data.
Thats one in 13 children, or roughly two in each classroom. And about 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one foodand they also are more likely to suffer asthma or skin irritation known as eczema.
Managing Food Allergies In Children
Because fatal and near-fatal wheat allergy reactions, like other food allergy symptoms, can develop when a child is not with his or her family, parents need to make sure that their childs school, day care or other program has a written emergency action plan with instructions on preventing, recognizing and managing these episodes in class and during activities such as sporting events and field trips. A nonprofit group, Food Allergy Research & Education, has a list of resources for schools, parents and students in managing food allergies.
If your child has been prescribed an auto-injector, be sure that you and those responsible for supervising your child understand how to use it.
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What Causes Food Allergies And Intolerances
Food allergies arise from sensitivity to chemical compounds in food, even compounds that are found naturally in food. Food allergies are more common in people whose family members have allergies, suggesting a genetic or hereditary factor may be involved with the development of food allergies.
Food allergies develop after you are exposed to a food protein that your body thinks is harmful. The first time you eat the food containing the protein, your immune system responds by creating specific disease-fighting antibodies . When you eat the food again, it triggers the release of IgE antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, in an effort to expel the protein “invader” from your body. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system.
The allergy symptoms you have depend on where in the body the histamine is released. If it is released in the ears, nose and throat, you may have an itchy nose and mouth, or trouble breathing or swallowing. If histamine is released in the skin, you may develop hives or a rash. If histamine is released in the gastrointestinal tract, you likely will develop stomach pains, cramps or diarrhea. Many people experience a combination of symptoms as the food is eaten and digested.
How Can I Prevent Food Allergies
There is no known way to prevent food allergies in adults. In babies, breastfeeding in the first six months of life may prevent milk allergy. Early introduction of highly allergenic foods such as peanut protein and eggs into the diet may also have a preventative effect. Please discuss with your healthcare provider.
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Tests For Food Allergies
If your doctor thinks a specific food allergy is likely, you may get tests to measure your allergic response.
One of these is a scratch puncture test. The doctor or technician puts a drop of a solution made with the food on your forearm or back. Then they’ll prick your skin with a needle through the drop and watch for swelling or redness.
Skin tests are quick, simple, and relatively safe. But experts don’t recommend making a diagnosis based on a skin test alone. Your skin test may show an allergy to a food without you having allergic reactions when eating that food. So your doctor will diagnose a food allergy only when you have a positive skin test and a history of reactions to the same food.
If you’re extremely allergic and have severe reactions, skin testing could be dangerous. It also can’t be done if you have severe eczema. Instead, your doctor can use blood tests such as RAST and ELISA that measure the amount of food-specific IgE. These tests may cost more, and results take longer. Again, a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean you have a food allergy.
A food challenge, or feeding test, is another way to confirm or rule out an allergy. It’s done with your doctor there. You eat small servings of food every 15-30 minutes that have increasing amounts of the suspected allergen in them until you either have a reaction or eat a meal-sized portion.
Types Of Food Allergies
Food allergies are divided into 3 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 . 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 .
- mixed IgE and non-IgE-mediated food allergies some people may experience symptoms from both types.
Read more information about the symptoms of a food allergy.
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What Is Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance happens when the body doesnt produce enough of the enzyme lactase to fully break down the sugar found in most dairy products. It is rare in young children and usually only develops after 3 years of age. While some young children adjust to the lack of this enzyme, some will have problems for life.
If your child is lactose intolerant, you can give them the calcium they need by offering lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk.
While none of these items will provide enough calcium on their own, its also healthy to offer:
- fortified soy milk,
- almonds, and
- pinto beans.
Many of these foods do not provide enough vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about whether a supplement of vitamin D would be right for your child.
Oas And Nose Allergies Can Be Linked
- Over 50% of people who are allergic to pollen also have OAS. This means 10% of all people.
- Ragweed pollen allergy can cross-react with all melons. Also, sometimes with bananas and tomatoes.
- Birch pollen allergy can cross-react with raw potatoes, carrots, celery and apples.
- Grass pollen allergy can cross-react with tomato and kiwi.
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What Is A Food Allergy
When you have a food allergy, your body thinks certain foods are trying to harm you. Your body fights back by setting off an allergic reaction. A mild reaction is no fun, but it isn’t dangerous. A serious reaction can be deadly. But quick treatment and emergency management can prevent death.
Allergies tend to run in families. You are more likely to have a food allergy if other people in your family have allergies like hay fever, asthma, or eczema .
Food allergies are more common in children than in adults. Children sometimes outgrow their food allergies, especially allergies to milk, eggs, or soy. But if you develop a food allergy as an adult, you will most likely have it for life.
Food allergy versus food intolerance
Food intolerances are much more common than food allergies. True food allergies are a reaction to food or food additives by your body’s immune system.
Many people think they have a food allergy, but in fact they have a food intolerance. Food intolerance is much more common. It can cause symptoms like an upset stomach, but it does not involve the immune system. A food intolerance does not cause an allergic reaction. A food intolerance can make you feel bad, but it is not dangerous. A food allergy can be dangerous.
Dining Out With Food Allergies
If your child has one or more food allergies, dining out can be achallenge. However, it is possible to have a healthy and satisfyingdining-out experience it just takes some preparation and persistence onyour part.
The American Dietetics Association offers these tips for dealing with foodallergies when your family is eating away from home:
Know what ingredients are in the foods at the restaurant where you plan to eat. When possible, obtain a menu from the restaurant ahead of time and review the menu items.
Let your server know from the beginning about your child’s food allergy. He or she should know how each dish is prepared and what ingredients are used. Ask about preparation and ingredients before you order. If your server does not know this information or seems unsure of it, ask to speak to the manager or the chef.
Avoid buffet-style or family-style service, as there may be cross-contamination of foods from using the same utensils for different dishes.
Avoid fried foods, as the same oil may be used to fry several different foods.
Alternately, there are several types of allergy cards available on theinternet that can be customized with your child’s personal information. Oneexample is the Food Allergy Buddy Dining Card, promoted by the NationalRestaurant Association.
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Issues Mistakenly Linked To Food Allergies
Although some people think certain illnesses can be caused by food allergies, evidence doesn’t back up such claims. Histamines in cheese or red wine, for example, can trigger migraines. But we can’t say that food allergies actually causemigraines. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis aren’t made worse by foods. Food allergies don’t cause “allergic tension fatigue syndrome,” where people get tired, nervous, and may have problems concentrating or headaches.
Cerebral allergy is a term that describes when mast cells are supposedly releasing their chemicals in the brain — and nowhere else in the body — causing trouble concentrating and headaches. Most doctors don’t recognize cerebral allergy as a disorder.
Even when their surroundings are very clean, some people have many general complaints like problems concentrating, fatigue, or depression. Environmental illness may be the result of small amounts of allergens or toxins, but not food allergies.
Researchers have found that hyperactivity in children may be related to food additives, but only occasionally and only when the child has had a lot of them. A food allergy won’t directly affect a child’s behavior, although their symptoms might make them cranky and difficult, and allergy medications can make them sleepy.
How Food Allergies Develop
Babies are not born with food allergies. Rather, food allergies develop over time.
Food allergies result from a breakdown of tolerance to a given food, delayed development of that tolerance, or both.
When someone’s tolerance to a food breaks down, or its development is delayed, their immune system begins to treat the protein of that food as a foreign invader to their body.
Our immune systems are meant to defend us from viruses and bacteria. But when someone develops a food allergy, their immune system over-defends the body in response to that food.
Most commonly, the immune system starts to develop antibodies known as food-specific IgE antibodies, to fight off the allergen.
What are Food-Specific IgE Antibodies?
Food-specific IgE antibodies are antibodies that detect, and defend the body against, a specific food that someone is allergic to.
For example, if someone is allergic to peanut, their immune system will produce specific IgE antibodies to defend against peanut protein.
These IgE antibodies help cells cause an allergic reaction whenever someone eats a food they are allergic to.
Food-specific IgE antibodies frequently start to develop in infancy—before a baby reaches their first birthday.
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Which Food Allergies Are Most Common
In adults, they include:
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts
- Shellfish, including shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab
For children, the food allergens that most often cause problems are:
Adults usually don’t lose their allergies, but children do sometimes. Kids are more likely to outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, and soy than to peanuts, fish, and shrimp.
The foods that you’ll react to are often those that you eat regularly. In Japan, for example, you’ll find rice allergy. In Scandinavia, codfish allergy is common.
Cross Reactions With Other Foods
Children with allergies listed below can react to other foods:
- Cow’s milk allergy: 90% also react with goat’s milk and 40% with soy milk
- Egg: 5% react with chicken
- Peanut: 5% react with other legumes . About 30% also react to tree nuts.
- Tree nut: 40% react with other tree nuts
- Fish: 50% react with other fish. Only 10% also react to shellfish.
- Shellfish: 70% react with other shellfish
- Melon: 90% react with banana and avocado
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Q Do Certain Food Allergies Accompany Other Allergies
A. Yes. People who are sensitive to certain airborne allergens may develop some food allergies, This is known as oral allergy syndrome.
Thus, if youre susceptible to ragweed pollen, during seasons where ragweed pollen is high the person may experience a reaction with the ingestion of one of the following: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and bananas.
Foods associated with birch tree pollen allergy include: apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, kiwi, carrots, celery, parsley, almonds and hazelnuts.
Starting A Food Trial
Starting your dog on a food trial means your pet will eat a prescription diet and absolutely nothing else for a couple of months to see if symptoms resolve.
If they do, some veterinarians will suggest going back to the dogs old diet to see if symptoms return to ensure that the dog is truly allergic to one or more ingredients in their regular diet.
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Food Allergies And Long
It’s one thing to manage your food allergy when you’re cooking or ordering your own food, but it’s another if you’re living in a long-term care facility where your food choices are not entirely your own. To manage your food allergy or your loved ones, ask these questions:
- How does the staff track residents’ dietary needs?
- Does the staff use separate preparation areas for food-allergic residents’ meals?
- Is the staff well-versed in what you are allergic to and where allergens might be found?
- How does the staff keep food-allergic residents’ plates separate from the rest?
- What methods help residents stay on track with their diets and prevent things like food swapping?
Pat Perotti is a registered dietitian at McKnight Place, an assisted living and skilled nursing community in St. Louis that holds itself out as a food allergy-aware facility. When choosing long-term care housing, Perotti recommends you ensure that food handlers have earned ServSafe certifications. She also stresses the importance of ensuring that “dietary managers have their CDM certificates.”
Living with a new food allergy requires attention to detail and careful food selection, but with some care, you can eat smart and stay healthy.