Your immune system’s primary goal is to keep your body healthy. In the case of food allergies, your immune system mistakes harmless food proteins as a threat and attacks. Large amounts of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody, are produced. IgE causes the release of histamine and other chemicals, which can trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
What Are the Causes of Food Allergies?
While any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, there are eight foods that account for almost 90 percent of all food allergies:
- Tree nuts.
What Are the Symptoms of Food Allergies?
The symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to life threatening. Mild symptoms include:
- Itchy mouth.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Stomach pain.
Severe symptoms include:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue and/or throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Turning blue.
Any one of these severe symptoms or a combination of mild symptoms can be the sign of a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. In the event of this reaction, epinephrine should be administered and the patient should be taken to the hospital immediately.
Mild reactions can be treated with antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec.
While there are drugs available to treat the symptoms of an allergic reaction, the only way to prevent one is through strict avoidance of the problematic foods.
How Are Food Allergies Diagnosed?
Good clinical history and food prick or blood tests are used to diagnose food allergies. Both skin and blood tests detect food allergen specific IgE. A blood test is used to measure the amount of allergen-specific IgE antibodies present in the blood.
If the test is negative, an oral food challenge can also be performed in order to clarify a food allergy. This test takes place in the clinic where you will be under constant medical supervision. This ensures if you experience an allergic reaction it can be treated immediately.
The food in question is ingested in small amounts and the challenge is stopped at the first sign of a reaction. After a few hours, if no reaction has occurred, you are not allergic.
How Are Food Allergies Treated?
If the cause of the allergy symptoms cannot be determined, an elimination diet is recommended. Potential trigger foods are eliminated from your diet for a few weeks. If the symptoms resolve, the eliminated food is most likely the culprit. To make sure, you may be asked to reintroduce the food back into your diet to see if the symptoms return.
A food allergy should not be taken lightly. The best way to stay safe is to know exactly what can cause a reaction and to have a treatment plan in place. The doctors at Augusta - Aiken ENT & Allergy have the tests needed to determine what you are allergic to.