Tuesday, May 27, 2008

10 Things You Should Know About Food Allergies

  1. What is a food allergy? Food allergies occur when the body thinks a food is harmful. The immune system tries to fight it off by releasing massive amounts of chemicals and histamine. These chemicals trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  2. What are the common symptoms of a reaction? Symptoms range from a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea to difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and death.
  3. How does a food allergy differ from a food intolerance? A food intolerance occurs when the body reacts negatively to food, but the immune system is not involved. A good example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance--an inability to properly digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. People with an intolerance can often eat the problematic food in small amounts. People with food allergies must avoid exposure to their food allergens.
  4. How serious are food allergies? Food allergies are very serious. In the USA alone, around 200 people die every year from their food allergies.
  5. What are some common foods (allergens) that can trigger allergic reactions? While any food can cause allergies, 90% of all allergic reactions to food are caused by: Egg, Milk, Soy, Wheat, Fish, Shellfish, Peanuts, and Tree Nuts (e.g., walnuts, pecans, cashews)
  6. What is anaphylaxis? Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that can be fatal within minutes, either through swelling that shuts off airways or through a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis can occur when a food-allergic individual is exposed to a food allergen. Contact with, or ingestion of, this allergen sets off a chain reaction in the immune system which may lead to anaphylaxis: swelling of the airways, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and death.
  7. What is the best treatment for food allergy? Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction. It is available by prescription as a self-injectable device (EpiPen or Twinject). It is important to administer the Epinephrine as soon as one detects the symptoms of anaphylaxis and then call 911. Individuals who have been prescribed Epinephrine must carry it with them at all times because accidents are never planned.
  8. Is there a cure for food allergies? Currently, there is no cure for food allergies.
  9. How can you prevent a reaction from occurring? Strict avoidance of foods that trigger an allergic reaction is the only way to prevent a reaction. A person with food allergies must read ingredient labels for every food each and every time they eat it. Food labels are now required to carry allergy warnings, but there are older packages on shelves that did not fall under this requirement. Also, changes in ingredients and manufacturing practices occur, requiring food-allergic individuals to carefully read labels each time they eat a food, even if they have safely eaten that particular brand of food thirty times in the past. And if a food does not have a label, don't eat it!
  10. Where can I learn more about food allergies?

http://www.foodallergy.org/ http://www.peanutallergy.com/ http://www.foodallergyinitiative.org/ http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/

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