Food Allergies 101
Updated: Aug 9
This post is an informational post with facts all about food allergies. Special credit and thanks to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). FARE is an amazing company with many resources and information about food allergies. This post will be a basic summary of what I think is the most important information based off two slide shows I had to make for school with credits to FARE. If you need more information please go to FARE's website and read all the resources available there.
What are food allergies?
A food allergy is an overreaction in the immune system to a food. The immune system is supposed to protect the body from germs. During the overreaction in the immune system, the immune system thinks the food is harmful, and then releases chemicals such as histamine. Basically the immune system tries to fight off the food as if it was a germ. Therefore the food someone is allergic to is a food allergen and the response their body has to the food is an allergic reaction. A person can have one food allergy or multiple food allergies. Anyone can develop any food allergy at any time. In America over 15 million people have food allergies.
What are NOT food allergies?
A food allergy is not a food intolerance or a dislike of certain foods. A food intolerance is when your body has trouble digesting a food. Food intolerances are not life threatening.
Top 8 Allergens
These are the most common food allergies people have:
And for a 9th I would put Sesame (Sesame is currently not considered to be a major allergen)
People can be allergic to any food, there are over 170 known food allergens. People also can be allergic to allergens that are not food, such as latex, pollen and bee stings.
Allergic reactions can range from mild to very serious. The most dangerous reaction is called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that happens very quickly, where the blood stops circulating and it is hard to breathe. Anaphylaxis may cause death. Allergic reactions are very unpredictable. The severity and symptoms can all change from one reaction to the next. During an allergic reaction one or more symptoms may occur. A person's past reactions do not predict future reactions. Even just small amounts of an allergen can trigger a reaction.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
A person could have one or more of these symptoms during an allergic reaction.
Mild Symptoms include:
Itchy and/or runny nose and/or sneezing
Mild itch and/or a few hives on skin
Mild nausea and/or discomfort in gut
Severe Symptoms include:
Short of breath in lungs and/or wheezing and/or repetitive cough
Looks pale and/or blue and/or person feels faint and/or dizzy and/or have weak pulse
Throat is tight and/or hoarse and/or person has trouble breathing and/or swallowing
Major swelling of tongue and/or lips in the mouth
Many hives all over the skin and/or widespread redness on skin
Severe vomiting and/or diarrhea
Person feels something bad is going to happen and/or anxiety and/or confusion
There can also be a combination of symptoms from different parts of the body.
Epinephrine is the only medication that can reverse the severe symptoms of allergic reactions and Anaphylaxis. Up to two epinephrine auto-injectors can be given during an allergic reaction. An injection of epinephrine should be given in the outer thigh, through clothing is usually okay. Asthma medications can also be used after the epinephrine has been given. After the epinephrine is injected, the person must be taken to the emergency room since additional medication and treatment is needed to manage the reaction. If epinephrine is not injected fast enough during Anaphylaxis, this can cause death. If the reaction is minor and not Anaphylaxis, antihistamines like Benadryl can be given. Antihistamines should never be used in place of epinephrine and in case of anaphylaxis antihistamines should not be given first. A person with known food allergies should be carrying their own epinephrine, and if needed, antihistamines and asthma medications.
There is no cure
There is no cure for food allergies. At least not yet. The only way to keep from having an allergic reaction is for the person to stay away from the food they are allergic to. Allergies usually are lifelong, but sometimes are outgrown. A person with food allergies adjusts to living everyday being careful of what they eat. They should read labels to avoid food that contains, may contain or has cross contain with their allergen. They also should not eat food without labels and should not share food with others. They also should always carry their epinephrine with them.
For more information please visit the website of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) at http://www.foodallergy.org