May is Food Allergy Action Month - Do You Know the Basics?

May 1, 2015 by Molly Huff

 Over 15 million Americans struggle with food allergies, and this issue has gained significant awareness over the past decade or so. May is Food Allergy Action Month, a great time to learn about this disease that affects so many. Whether you just know of someone with a food allergy or this affects you or a member of your family, Affinity Health hopes you will take the time to educate yourself on this issue - it could save the life of someone you love!

What is Food Allergy?

The body’s immune system identifies and destroys germs that make you sick. A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein - an allergen - as a threat and attacks it. Unlike other types of food disorders - like intolerances - food allergies are “IgE medicated.” This means that your immune system produces abnormally large amounts of antibody called immunoglobulin E - IgE for short. IgE antibodies fight the “enemy” food allergens by releasing histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Food Allergy Symptoms

An allergic reaction to food can affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and, in the most serious cases, the cardiovascular system. Reactions can range from mild to severe, including the potentially life-threatening condition, anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction).

Symptoms typically appear within minutes to several hours after eating the food to which you are allergic. Keep in mind that children may communicate their symptoms in a different manner than adults.

Mild symptoms may include:

  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Itchy mouth or ear canal
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nasal congestion or a runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Slight, dry cough
  • Odd taste in mouth
  • Uterine contractions

Severe symptoms may include:

  • Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Turning blue
  • Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • A weak pulse

Severe symptoms may be signs of anaphylaxis and require immediate treatment at an urgent care facility or emergency room.

If you suspect you or a loved one might be suffering from a food allergy, please make an appointment with one of Affinity’s family practice physicians or internists. If you would like to have your child tested for food allergies, contact Affinity Pediatrics to make an appointment. Food allergies are manageable and many live with them experiencing minimal issues, but knowledge is power, and it is important to be prepared. Fortunately, experts and families have compiled a wealth of information and resources that will help those with food allergies stay safe and enjoy a rich, active life.

Source: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)