Different Food Allergies and How to Manage Them
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to an ingredient in a food or drink that someone consumes. It may affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, or the respiratory or cardiovascular systems. Many types of foods can be triggers, but certain foods are much more likely than others to cause an allergic reaction. Here is a look at key symptoms and how to best manage food allergies.
What are the Symptoms?
Food allergy symptoms may vary from mild to severe, and can come on suddenly or develop over several hours. Mild symptoms related to food allergy may include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Stomach cramps
Severe symptoms of an allergic reaction to food include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Hives (an itchy, blotchy or raised rash)
- Dizziness or faintness
- Nausea or vomiting
What are the Most Common Food Allergies?
Nearly any food is capable of triggering an allergic reaction. Eight foods, in particular, cause the majority of food allergies. These are peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
Here is a look at the top three food allergies:
- Milk allergies are a reaction to whey or casein, a protein found in cow’s milk. Different from lactose intolerance, people with milk allergies are much more likely to develop allergic reactions to other foods including eggs, soy, and peanuts.
- Egg allergies are most common in children, and usually resolve at a very young age. The reaction is due to certain proteins in either the yolk or the egg whites.
- Peanut allergies are usually a lifelong disorder and are particularly serious. Accidental exposure can occur at any time during a person’s life, and result in severe allergic reactions that can restrict breathing or cause cardiac arrest. In these conditions, immediate medical attention is required in the form of a shot of epinephrine. The patient should be monitored for several hours after the shot to make sure symptoms subside and don’t return.
How to Manage Food Allergies
Dealing with food allergies can be daunting. The effects of a reaction can range from mild to severe, and anyone with a food allergy must vigilantly avoid the foods that trigger reactions.
Here are five tips to help you create a more manageable routine:
- Always read labels. Food labels include important allergy information such as ingredients and whether any additives contain or were produced with milk protein or byproducts of wheat. Manufacturers frequently change ingredients and an allergen may be a part of a new formulation, so be sure to read every label, every time.
- Be mindful when cooking. Not everyone in the household may follow an allergen-free diet. Be aware of cross contamination. To minimize this, it is a good idea to have two sets of cooking and eating utensils – one exclusively for the allergic person. This will minimize instances where a knife used to cut a peanut butter sandwich is used to butter the toast of someone who’s allergic to peanuts.
- Be aware when dining out. It is recommended to let the manager or chef know about your food allergy before your order. Consider a chef card – a printed note specifying all the ingredients you are allergic to as well as a request that all dishes, utensils and food preparation surfaces be free from traces of that food. This can be customized on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network website.
- Create an action plan. Make a list of steps to take should you accidentally eat the food you are allergic to. Carry a printed copy with you as a proactive measure.
- Carry your medication. If your doctor prescribed emergency medication for you (i.e. EpiPen or TwinJet), always take two doses with you. This will help you be prepared for any instances you experience an allergic reaction.
Schedule a Consultation
Living with food allergies can be complicated and concerning. The key is in understanding how to identify and manage different food allergies. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Shukla today to learn more about your condition and treatment options.