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Allergy Tips - Living with Food Allergies

Feb 29, 2008
Living with food allergies isn't as hard as it used to be. With so many people all over the world showing signs of allergies today, many food manufacturers have seen the benefit of offering a variety of food substitutes to help make life (and eating) easier for those with sensitive systems.

While living with food allergies may be easier these days, it can still be quite dangerous, depending on the severity of your symptoms. For some, coming in contact (any contact) with certain food allergens (such as peanuts, or even peanut oil), can make them very sick - or even kill them! So, what are the most common food culprits?

The foods causing the most allergic reactions include:

-All varieties of nuts.
-Seafood, such as shrimp.
-Milk, particularly cow's milk.
-Eggs.
-Soy.
-Wheat.

So why can some people handling eating these substances, and others can't? Food allergies are caused by an immune system gone haywire. Normally, your immune system protects you from all types of germs and diseases by making bacteria-fighting antibodies. People with food allergies have an immune system that treats certain food ingredients as a disease, making your body react to it in a negative way. This is what can cause itchy eyes, and that runny nose in the spring when the pollen is out, or a more severe reaction to the foods you eat.

When you eat something that you are allergic to, the cells of your body release chemicals (including histamine) into the bloodstream to attack it. This can cause your respiratory system, skin and digestive tract to react, either mildly as in the case of a runny nose or upset stomach, or more severely as can happen when your throat restricts and breathing becomes difficult or even impossible.

Other signs you may experience include:

-Tightness in the throat.
-Hoarse voice.
-Wheezing.
-Tingling of your tongue or lips.
-Cough.
-Nausea.
-Vomiting.
-Stomach pain.
-Diarrhea.

In the most serious cases, a food allergy can cause anaphylaxis (say: ah-nuh-fuh-lak-sis), or a sudden decrease in blood pressure, restricted breathing tubes and a swollen tongue.
Those at risk for this type of severe reaction need to take special precautions when eating and always be prepared for an emergency.

Children often outgrow allergies to milk and eggs as they grow older, but more severe reactions to foods like peanuts, certain kinds of fish, and shrimp often last a lifetime.
Unfortunately for the millions of people who suffer form food allergies, there is no medication to treat it, making prevention a key. Avoiding foods that contain the ingredients that you are allergic to is essential to avoiding an unwelcome and possibly dangerous reaction.

One way to figure out if a food is potentially dangerous for you to eat is to check their labels carefully. The most common food allergens are always listed (sometimes in bold) on the ingredient list.

No matter how hard you try, you may find that you've accidentally eaten the wrong thing. Remain calm and follow your emergency plan - which you should create with your doctor beforehand This is especially important if you have a food allergy that can cause anaphylaxis) For serious reactions, people may need to carry a shot of epinephrine with them at all times, often referred to as an Epi-Pen. Of course even after administering this self-treatment, you must always go to the hospital to keep your reaction under control.

Having a food allergy can be a real annoyance, but it is something that you can control by following a few simple tips:

-Read all food labels carefully.
-Avoid eating any foods with unknown ingredients
-Carry an Epi-Pen or antihistamine with you at all times.
-Seek medical help immediately if you notice any reactions to the foods you've eaten.
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