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How Do Food Allergies Develop

Jul 8, 2008
According to data from the Mayo Clinic, approximately two percent of adults and six percent of minors suffer some form of food allergy. When you take into account that the population of the US is more than three hundred million, these seemingly small percentages equate to some six million grownups and eighteen million minors.

Much the same as any other allergy, food allergies result from an over reaction to an allergen by the immune system. Common food allergens include, but are not limited to, dairy products such as milk, seafood and shellfish, peanuts and eggs.

Because the body sees the ingestion of any of these foods as a foreign invader instead of nutrition, it releases an antibody called Immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short, ready to fight the perceived invader. The allergy symptoms are produced by the release of histamine, prostaglandins and various other compounds, which are stimulated by the antibodies.

Food allergy symptoms tend to be more comprehensive than those that mark some other allergies. These include the possibility of watery eyes and nasal congestion. However, they are typically accompanied with or even overwhelmed by such things as swelling up of the lips, throat or tongue, urticaria or skin hives (itchy red bumps that form on the surface of the skin), nausea, wheezing and even pain in the abdomen.

In severe cases, anaphylactic shock can happen. This is a whole body or systemic allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. It involves some serious symptoms such as light-headedness, constricted airways resulting in breathing difficulties and a dramatic drop in blood pressure. It comes on very quickly and if not treated immediately, can sometimes result in the death of the person. In the US, some two hundred people a year die as a result of anaphylactic shock.

Allergic reactions to food are sometimes localized in some people. For example, some folks will experience a tingling sensation in their mouth after eating fresh fruit or vegetables. It is believed that certain proteins similar to those that are found in ragweed pollen cause this type of response.

Differentiating between food intolerance and a food allergy necessitates a professional diagnosis by an allergist.

To ascertain if a person has an allergy to particular foods, the allergist will carry out one or many skin prick tests. This procedure involves taking a small extract of the suspected substance and inserting it just under the surface of the patients skin. The area of skin is then monitored for approximately thirty minutes to determine if any itchiness or swelling occurs as a result of any response to the suspect substance.

In some cases, a blood test may be justified. This measures the quantity of IgE produced in response to consuming the suspicious food. However, it is not always definitive.

An example of where the symptoms are similar but not the same as an allergy is lactose intolerance. This is caused by the genetic deficiency of a digestive enzyme that is needed by the body to process cows milk safely.

The best line of defense for anybody with a food allergy is to get rid of the problem food from their diet and environment. Those with an allergy to eggs simply should not ingest eggs or products that are made with them. Those sensitive to peanuts and peanut dust can by and large avoid coming into contact with them.

In the absence of any known cure for allergies, avoidance is the best medicine for the moment. However, it is not always possible to avoid some substances, despite your best efforts and in that scenario, symptom relief is available. Antihistamines are advisable. It is also good to have available an EpiPen or similar device that lets allergy sufferers inject a small quantity of ephinephrine during an emergency. A serious attack of anaphylaxis can be kept at bay until professional medical assistance can be given.
About the Author
To learn much more about the different types of Food Allergies in Children, visit http://www.allergydot.com/ where you will find this and much more, including information on the different types of Allergy Skin Test Procedures
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