Each year hundreds of people die from food allergy and other allergies. Over 30,000 receive life-saving treatment in emergency rooms due to food-induced anaphylaxis. Out of all allergies, food allergy has got to be one of the most common, with an estimated 11 million people in the United States alone suffering from food allergies.
The condition develops when the body’s immune system becomes misdirected. As a result, it suddenly sees and believes that harmless food proteins are, in fact, “harmful,” prompting them to attack.
When you have an allergic reaction after eating certain types of food, it means your immune system is responding to the substance perceived by the body as a harmful allergen. Massive amounts of antibodies are produced, binding with both the allergens and mast cells (a certain type of cell containing chemicals). When the antibodies come into contact with these mast cells, they alter the structure of its membranes, causing the various chemicals inside to leak out. One of the chemicals is histamine, which is a major player in inflammation of surrounding tissue.
The symptoms of food allergy could range from mildly inconvenient to uncomfortable to complete collapse of the body, a condition known as anaphylaxis. Many people have died or have been brought to emergency rooms as a result of anaphylaxis brought about by violent allergic reactions to certain types of food.
Common signs of food allergy include the following:
Tingling sensation in the mouth
Swelling of the tongue and the throat
Drop in blood pressure
Loss of consciousness
Death (extreme cases)
Typically, these symptoms appear within minutes or two hours after the person has eaten the food he or she is allergic to.
When talking about treatment for food allergy, the best method is avoidance. If you’re allergic to certain types of food, then you ought to practice strict avoidance of these foods. Food allergy is largely symptomatic, which means that whatever medications or treatment methods are available, they are usually to prevent the onset or for treatment of the symptoms.
Epinephrine, also called “adrenaline,” is the medication of choice for controlling severe reactions.
While any food can cause allergies, 90% of all food allergic reactions are caused by:
Peanut food allergy is one of the most common, serious, and potentially fatal food allergies. In a survey conducted by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the prevalence of peanut allergy in both adults and children alike has doubled up over a period of five years. Peanuts are actually legumes but it is probably unnecessary to eliminate other legumes unless there is good reason to suspect that they cause problems or your doctor tells you to avoid them.
Egg-related food allergy is often mild. However, there are rare cases where egg can trigger anaphylaxis. Food labels must be thoroughly scrutinized for products containing egg or albumen. It should also be noted that well-cooked eggs (as in cakes) are generally harmless. But raw and lightly cooked eggs can cause allergic reactions.