Food allergy is triggered once the body mistakenly creates an antibody (IgE) to fight off a particular food. Once the food is eaten again, it will trigger an immune system response which results to the release of histamine and other substances in the body. These can trigger various symptoms depending on the location where they are released. The usual symptoms include the following:
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting
- Swelling and itching of the skin
- Sneezing episodes or runny nose
- Wheezing or coughing
Essentially, the symptoms manifest within a few minutes after eating a particular food but can also be delayed up to several hours. The symptoms are usually the classic ones such as wheezing, rashes, itchiness, abdominal symptoms or sudden collapse. At the present, there are reliable skin tests and blood tests that can determine if the individual has a particular food allergy.
Common triggers of food allergy
- Nuts and seeds
- Some fruits such as kiwi and citrus
In case a severe allergy is identified, the individual should avoid even minimal amounts of the food. Aside from avoiding the offending food, the individual should be prescribed with the appropriate emergency treatment in case of accidental exposure. Depending on the severity of the reaction, it includes an auto-injector epinephrine, steroids, antihistamines or all of these.
Management of food allergy
It is important to note that there are 3 phases in the management of food allergy that you should be familiar with.
- Identification and avoidance of the cause (if possible)
- Recognizing the symptoms of an allergic reaction
- Being prepared with what to do if a reaction occurs again
Individuals who have been identified with food allergy should consult an allergist for proper assessment and treatment.
Other strategies in managing food allergy
- The individual should use a medical alert necklace or bracelet.
- Family, friends and colleagues should be informed about the allergy of the individual.
- The individual should avoid all the foods that trigger the allergy. It is not advisable to even try minimal amounts. Remember that even tiny amounts of the allergen can trigger a severe allergic reaction.
- Always make sure that the individual has an allergy management plan and inform others where it is. You can keep a copy of the plan with any medications the individual has been prescribed with in case an allergic reaction occurs.
- The individual should take the prescribed medications for an allergic reaction right away if the symptoms start to manifest. After the medications were taken, bring the individual to the hospital right away.
- If the individual has an auto-injector epinephrine, it must be on hand at all times. Make sure that you know how and when to use it and other steps to take.
Other food reactions
In some individuals, they develop an immune system response to certain foods in which the IgE antibody is not included. Some experience contact reactions to foods triggered by immune system reactions or other unusual antibodies. The symptoms are delayed and less severe, but can lead to chronic symptoms in the gut especially in children.