What Is an Allergy? An allergy occurs when your body’s natural defenses overreact to exposure to a particular substance, treating it as an invader and sending out chemicals to defend against it.
More than 50 million Americans have an allergy of some kind. Food allergies are estimated to affect 4 to 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Allergic Reaction Symptoms
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may involve the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system and the respiratory tract. They can surface in one or more of the following ways:
- Vomiting and/or Stomach Cramps
- Shortness of Breath
- Repetitive Cough
- Shock or Circulatory Collapse
- Tight, Hoarse Throat – Trouble Swallowing
- Swelling of the Tongue, Affecting the Ability to Talk or Breathe
- Weak Pulse
- Pale or Blue Coloring of Skin
- Dizziness or Feeling Faint
While any food can cause an adverse reaction, eight types of food account for about 90 percent of all reactions:
- Tree nuts
Most food-related symptoms occur within two hours of ingestion; often they start within minutes. In some very rare cases, the reaction may be delayed by four to six hours or even longer. Delayed reactions are most typically seen in children who develop Eczema as a symptom of food allergy and in people with a rare allergy to red meat caused by the bite of a lone star tick.
*(Eczema is the term for a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become irritated and inflamed.)
Another type of delayed food allergy reaction stems from Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), a severe gastrointestinal reaction that generally occurs two to six hours after consuming milk, soy, certain grains and some other solid foods. It mostly occurs in young infants who are being exposed to these foods for the first time or who are being weaned. FPIES often involves repetitive vomiting and can lead to dehydration. In some instances, babies will develop bloody diarrhea. Because the symptoms resemble those of a viral illness or bacterial infection, diagnosis of FPIES may be delayed. FPIES is a medical emergency that should be treated with IV rehydration.
Not everyone who experiences symptoms after eating certain foods has a food allergy or needs to avoid that food entirely; for instance, some people experience an itchy mouth and throat after eating a raw or uncooked fruit or vegetable. This may indicate Oral Allergy Syndrome – a reaction to pollen, not to the food itself. The immune system recognizes the pollen and similar proteins in the food and directs an allergic response to it. The allergen is destroyed by heating the food, which can then be consumed with no problem.
The Most Common Food Allergens in Children Are:
The foods most associated with food allergy in children are: Milk, Eggs and Peanuts. Children may outgrow their allergic reactions to milk and to eggs. Peanut and tree nut allergies are likely to persist.
The Most Common Food Allergens in Adults Are:
- Fruit and vegetable pollen (oral allergy syndrome)
- Peanuts and tree nuts
- Fish and shellfish
Allergies Connected to the Immune System
The immune system is a network of cell types working together to defend and protect the body from “invaders” such as viruses, infections and disease. If you suffer from allergies, your body’s immune system may overreact to certain allergens. Or, if you have an immunodeficiency disorder, your body’s immune system is compromised and has difficulty fighting infections.
It is becoming more substantiated that a weak immune system and poor gut flora are some of the main causes for allergic reactions among children and adults. When the gut flora is compromised with excessive bacteria, fungus, viral pathogens or weak stomach acids then poor digestion occurs and weakens the intestinal tracts ability to function optimally. These conditions reduce the biochemical creations and reactions in the Liver that are necessary to fortify the entire body system. (See Immune System, Liver Ailments and our Evaluation Form)
Food allergy symptoms are most common in babies and children, but they can appear at any age. You can even develop an allergy to foods you have eaten for years with no problems.
- Include itchy eyes and skin
- Sneezing and, nasal congestion
Allergies are an abnormal response of the immune system. People who have allergies have an immune system that reacts to a usually harmless substance in the environment. This substance (pollen, mold, and animal dander, for example) is called an Allergen. Allergies are a very common problem, affecting at least two out of every 10 Americans.
Allergies and Asthma
Asthma attacks (worsening of asthma symptoms) can be triggered by allergies, which can temporarily increase the inflammation of the airways in a susceptible person.
Allergies and Sleep
Many of us know the misery of allergies all too well — the sneezing, runny nose, and postnasal drip, watery itchy eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Whether from the symptoms or the medication we use to treat them, our sleep often suffers.
This is an inflammation, or swelling, of the tissue lining the sinuses. Normally, sinuses are filled with air, but when sinuses become blocked and filled with fluid, germs (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) can grow and cause an infection.
Sometimes, allergies can cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, requiring a medical diagnosis. More than 3M US cases are reported per year. Consult your doctor for medical advice.
What Can You Do If You Have Allergies?
The primary way to manage a food allergy is to avoid consuming the food that causes you problems. Carefully check ingredient labels of food products, and learn whether what you need to avoid is known by other names.
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