August 18th, 2015
Food allergy is the term used for an allergic reaction triggered by the immune system of the body after consuming certain food items. Eating even a small portion of allergy causing food can lead to development of hives, swelling of airways, and even anaphylactic reaction in some people.
It is important to understand that food allergy is an entirely separate entity from food intolerance. The latter is generally confined to the gastrointestinal tract, does not involve the immune system and is a less serious problem.
It is believed that 6% to 8% of all children under the age of three and 3% of all adults suffer from some kind of food allergy. Although there is no cure for this condition, the food allergy gets cured spontaneously in some children.
The symptoms of food allergy may develop within minutes in a person who is severely allergic to a few hours in individuals who are less allergic.
The common symptoms of food allergy include:
In certain individuals, the food allergy is so severe that it may trigger an anaphylactic reaction. The symptoms of this reaction are:
If not treated urgently, it can prove fatal.
In certain individuals, the immune system mistakes a particular food to be an allergen and produces immunoglobulin E antibodies against it. The next time the person consumes the same food item, the IgE antibodies already present in the blood stream sense it immediately and trigger an allergic reaction. This involves release of a chemical called as histamine which is responsible for producing the symptoms related to food allergy.
Food allergy is usually due to specific proteins present in the food items. Some of the food items that are known to induce allergic reaction are shellfish, walnuts, fish, eggs, peanuts, milk and wheat.
Some of the common risk factors for food allergy include:
Food allergy can give rise to complications like:
Antihistamines are usually prescribed to treat cases of mild food allergy. However, in case of severe food allergy, injecting epinephrine is the only way to save the life of the patient. It is advised that people suffering from food allergy carry an epinephrine auto injector with them at all times.
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