A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to food.
The symptoms of the allergic reaction may range from mild to severe.They may include itchiness, swelling of the tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, trouble breathing or low blood pressure. This typically occurs within minutes to hours after exposure.
APPOTEK can advise you about food allergies and refer you to a specialist where necessary.
In the case of severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, you should always contact the emergency services.
Causes of food allergy
When you have a food allergy, your immune system reacts to substances in beverages and foods. There is a clear link between children who have atopic eczema and food allergies.
Food allergies are most common in children under the age of three. Most grow out of their allergies naturally, but some retain them into adulthood.
Adults can also develop food allergies, but this is less common.
Foods that most commonly cause allergic disorders in adults are:
There are also so-called ”cross allergies”. This means that if you are allergic to one substance, you may have an allergic reaction to other substances that contain similar allergens.
Children and food allergies
The foods that most often cause allergic reactions in children are:
- dairy products
Allergy to cow’s milk is usually outgrown by the time the child is three. Similarly, egg allergies rarely persist into adulthood.
Food allergies usually have a fast onset (from seconds to one hour) and may include:
- Itching of mouth, lips, tongue, throat, eyes, skin, or other areas
- Swelling (angioedema) of lips, tongue, eyelids, or the whole face
- Difficulty swallowing
- Runny or congested nose
- Wheezing and/or shortness of breath
- Diarrhea, abdominal pain, and/or stomach cramps
In some cases, however, the onset of symptoms can be delayed for hours.
Symptoms vary. The amount of food needed to trigger a reaction also varies.
Serious danger from an allergy begins when the respiratory tract or blood circulation is affected. The former can be indicated through wheezing and cyanosis. Poor blood circulation leads to a weak pulse, pale skin and fainting.
A severe case of an allergic reaction, caused by symptoms affecting the respiratory tract and blood circulation, is called anaphylaxis. Here symptoms are related to a drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis occurs when antibodies are involved, and areas of the body that are not in direct contact with the food become affected and show symptoms. Those with asthma or an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, or seafood, are at greater risk for anaphylaxis.
Prevention and protection
The best way to avoid allergic disorders is obviously to avoid eating or drinking anything you know you may be reactive to. If your child is allergic, you should inform preschool, school and others in the child’s vicinity about the allergy. Also, be sure to check what food contains if you do not cook it yourself. For mild symptoms, non-prescription allergy medicines can help. You will find them at pharmacies.
Today, there are no drugs that cure food allergies. The mainstay of treatment is total avoidance of the foods identified as allergens. Immunotherapy can be used to treat allergies to, for example, peanuts, cow’s milk (milk protein allergy) and eggs.
For more severe symptoms, there are allergy medications that are given on prescription after individual assessment by a doctor.
If the food is accidentally ingested and a systemic reaction (anaphylaxis) occurs, then epinephrine should be used. A second dose of epinephrine may be required for severe reactions. The person should then be transported to the emergency room, where additional treatment can be given. Other treatments include antihistamines and steroids.
When to consult a doctor
Seek care if you think you have a food allergy to help know what is causing you trouble.
Seek emergency care if:
- you get breathing problems
- you have severe itching.
How APPOTEK can help
- Initial consultation
- referral to a specialist
- Individual treatment and nutrition plans
If you suspect anaphylaxis, always contact the emergency room for urgent care.