Food allergies are extremely common but do come with serious risks. They affect approximately 32 million Americans, most being adults. While any food could possibly cause an allergic reaction, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) named eight major food allergens that are responsible for most serious allergy reactions in the US: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Next year, sesame will join the list as part of the FDA’s efforts to evaluate emerging evidence on other non-listed food allergens that can cause a serious reaction.
- Family history – If asthma, eczema, hives, or allergies such as hay fever are common in your family, you are at increased risk of food allergies.
- Other allergies – If you’re already allergic to one food, you may be at increased risk of becoming allergic to another.
- Age – Food allergies are more common in children, especially toddlers and infants. Fortunately, children typically outgrow allergies to milk, soy, wheat, and eggs. Allergies to nuts and shellfish are more likely to be lifelong.
- Asthma – Asthma and food allergy commonly occur together. When they do, both food allergy and asthma symptoms are more likely to be severe.
Food Allergy Reactions Are Serious and Can Be Life-Threatening
Food-induced anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is sudden in onset and may cause death. Within minutes of exposure to the allergen, a person can have potentially life-threatening symptoms which may include:
- difficult or noisy breathing
- swelling of the tongue
- swelling or tightness in the throat
- difficulty talking
- hoarse voice
- persistent cough
- persistent dizziness or collapse
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it doesn’t take much food to cause a severe allergic reaction. In fact, each year in the US, 200,000 people require emergency medical care for allergic reactions to food.
What Can Happen if You Leave Your Allergies Untreated?
Avoiding allergy treatment can, not only lead to other health issues, but reduce quality of life as well. Untreated allergies may also worsen other chronic problems such as asthma and skin disorders like eczema and hives. We know that in the worst of circumstances they can lead to anaphylaxis. This can spiral into serious problems like an inability to breathe or cardiac arrest.
Managing or Treating Food Allergies
The good news is there are many things you can do to manage or treat food allergies. The first step is to ask your provider for an allergy test. Premier Medical Laboratory Services offers a non-invasive allergen specific IgE blood test, MDAllergyPro. It’s not only convenient and painless for the patient, but also helps providers assess suspected causes of symptoms. Next would be to eliminate the offending food/s from the diet. Here are some other suggested tips for living with food allergies:
- Read food labels
- Avoid cross-contact
- Recognize your symptoms
- Prepare for an emergency action plan
If you think you may have a food allergy, it’s important to ask your provider for a professional diagnosis.