According to the Centers for disease Control and Prevention, food allergies impact more than 50 million Americans including some 4-6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults. These occur when the body’s own immune system, designed to protect itself from foreign invaders triggers an overactive response to allergens causing a myriad of symptoms.
Common Food Allergies
While any food or food substance can cause an allergic reaction, the majority of food allergies stem from one or more of the following:
- Tree nuts
Symptoms Associated With Food Allergies
Allergy symptoms can range from mild discomfort to the more severe, life threatening condition, anaphylaxis that can impair breathing and shut the body down completely.
Allergic reactions may affect the skin, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, or respiratory tract.
These may include:
- Stomach cramps/vomiting/diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Circulatory collapse/shock
- Hoarse throat/difficulty swallowing
- Swollen tongue, impairing the ability to breathe or talk
- Weak pulse
- Blue or pale color skin
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Anaphylaxis—a serious physical reaction that can be life threatening, causing the body to go into shock
Delayed Allergic Reactions
While the majority of allergic symptoms present within two hours of ingesting a known allergen, reactions often occur within minutes. Rarely however, an allergic reaction can occur four to six hours later, as in cases of a skin allergy such as eczema developed by some children.
A severe gastrointestinal allergic reaction known as (FPIES), or food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome can occur up to six hours after consuming milk, soy or certain grain products. It is mostly common among young infants after ingesting these foods for the first time, (or being weaned) and results in repetitive vomiting which can lead to dehydration.
Managing Food Allergies
Avoidance and Cross-reactive Allergens
The majority of food allergies can be managed by simply avoiding food triggers and the environments these foods are prepared in. Much of the time allergies run in families and can be inherited, though not always. It is impossible to predict whether children of allergy sufferers, or siblings will develop sensitivity to certain foods.
Some food substances may also be “cross-reactive” meaning that allergies to specific foods may also crossover to general food groups. This happens with shellfish for example, when persons are allergic to shrimp, but also react to crab and lobster, or with peanut allergies and other tree nut reactions such as pecans, cashews, and walnuts.
In most cases however, once properly identified, food allergies can be managed fairly well through product and environmental awareness and avoidance.