Food Allergies

What is Food Allergy?

Allergy, according to European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) - an association including 49 National Allergy Societies, is a hypersensitivity reaction initiated by immunological mechanisms. Allergy can be antibody or cell-mediated. In Europe, more than 17 million people have a food allergy, and hospital admissions for severe reactions in children have risen seven-fold over the past decade. In United States, researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) says that eight foods account for 90% of all reactions: eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.

Find here a list of the most common food allergies

Egg Allergy

This allergy is very common in children, second only to milk allergy. Experts estimate 2% of them are allergic to proteins in egg whites or yolks - patients with an egg allergy must avoid all eggs completely because it is impossible to separate the egg white from the yolk, causing a croos-contact issue. The body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts in case of egg allergy. The body sees the protein as a foreign invader and sends out chemicals to defend against it. Those chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. The good news is that 70% of children with an egg allergy will outgrow the condition by age 16.

Milk and Dairy Allergy

Allergy to cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in infants and young children. Between 2% and 3% of children younger than 3 are allergic to milk. Some people confuse milk and dairy allergy with milk and dairy intolerance, but food allergy can be potentially fatal because it involves the immune system. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. While lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, it is not life-threatening. Milk allergy reactions can range from mild to severe. Some people have a severe reaction after ingesting a tiny amount of milk. Others have only a mild reaction after ingesting a moderate amount of milk. According to American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immonology (ACAAI), new studies show fewer than 20% of children had outgrown their allergy by age 4. However, about 80% of children are likely to outgrow their milk allergy before they are 16. The allergy is most likely to persist in children who have high levels of cow’s milk antibodies in their blood.

Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergy tend to be lifelong, although studies indicate that approximately 20% of children with peanut allergy do eventually outgrow their allergy. Based on recent studies, an estimated 25% to 40% of people who have peanut allergy also are allergic to tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts etc.). Trace amounts of peanut can cause an allergic reaction. Symptons can be itchy skin or hives, itching or tingling sensation in or around the mouth or throat, nausea, a runny or congested nose and anaphylaxis (less common).

Tree Nuts Allergy

Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts. A person with an allergy to one type of tree nut has a higher chance of being allergic to other types. Therefore, many experts advise patients with allergy to tree nuts to avoid all nuts and also peanuts (which is a legume) because of the higher likelihood of croos-contat with tree nuts during manufacturing and processing. It is one of the food allergens most frequently linked to anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin or any other area, nasal congestion or a runny nose, shortness of breath and anaphylaxis (less common).

Fish Allergy

This kind of allergy may not become apparent until adulthood - studies show that 40% of people reporting a fish allergy had no problems with fish until they were adults. Salmon, tuna and halibut are the most common kinds of finned fish to which people are allergic to. Having an allergy to a finned fish does not mean that you are also allergic to shellfish (shrimp, crab and lobster). While some allergists recommend that individuals with a fish allergy avoid eating all fish, it may be possible for someone allergic to one type of fish to safely eat other kinds. Symptoms include hives or a skin rash, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting and/or diarrhea, stuffy or runny nose and/or sneezing, headaches, asthma or anaphylaxis (less common).

Shellfish Allergy

It is one of the most dangerous allergy, sending more food-allergic people to hospital emergency rooms than any other. There are two kinds of shellfish: crustacea (such as shrimp, crab and lobster) and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops). Reactions to crustacean shellfish tend to be particularly severe. Researches from Food Allergy Research and Education show that approximately 60% of people with shellfish allergy experienced their first allergic reaction as adults. Most people who are allergic to one kind of shellfish usually are allergic to other types. Allergists usually advise their patients to avoid all varieties. Common symptoms are vomiting, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, hives all over the body, shortness of breath, wheezing, repetitive cough, tight, hoarse throat, trouble swallowing, swelling of the tongue and/or lips, weak pulse, pale or blue coloring of the skin, dizziness or confusion.

Soy Allergy

Soy is part of legume family and one of the more common food allergies, especially among babies and children. Researches show that approximately 0.4% of children are allergic to soy. Studies indicate that an allergy to soy generally occurs early in childhood and often is outgrown by age 3. Research indicates that the majority of children with soy allergy will outgrow the allergy by the age of 10. Symptoms include: rash or hives (urticaria), itching in the mouth, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, stuffy or runny nose, wheezing or other asthma symptoms.

Wheat Allergy

Some people get confused when the subject is wheat allergy or coeliac disease. According to the Coeliac Society of Ireland, a wheat allergy is an adverse reaction involving your immune system to one or more of the protein fractions in wheat. It may occur as a result of ingesting wheat or products containing wheat; or certain occupations may develop a respiratory condition as a result of inhaling large amounts of unprocessed wheat. Symptoms include gastrointestinal reactions, asthma, eczema or, in rare severe reactions, anaphylaxis. It is different from coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, resulting in damage to the small intestine. It results from ingestion of gluten, one of the proteins found in wheat. Wheat allergy is most common in children, and is usually outgrown before reaching adulthood, often by age 3. Symptoms include hives or skin rash, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, headaches, asthma or anaphylaxis (less common).

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