What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is when the immune system of an allergic person responds to the proteins in food in a way that is not normal. An allergy can occur from within seconds, to hours after exposure to the allergen. Someone with a food allergy has IGE antibodies to a specific food protein. When this person comes into contact with that food, their Immune System releases a chemical called Histamine. This chemical is responsible for the allergic reaction. Depending on where contact occurs, the symptoms can vary from a small rash, to Anaphylaxis.
The symptoms of food allergy vary greatly. Some of the symptoms are: a rash, itching/swelling in the mouth or face, drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, eczema, nasal congestion, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, Anaphylaxis. Allergic people may have some, or all of these symptoms.
Currently there is no known cure for food allergies. There are some specific treatments out there, such as desensitisation, but they don’t have a very high success rate. The safest known way to live with an allergy is to avoid known food allergens. Avoiding allergens doesn’t necessarily mean having a bland diet. Using alternative ingredients in food, as well as monitoring ingredients when eating out, means that you won’t really miss out on many types of food. If an allergic reaction does occur, time is vital. If you or the allergic person requires an adrenaline shot, they should be carrying with them two Epipens or Anapens. These pens provide a dose of Adrenaline, which may help the person until they can get to a hospital. Anyone can use these pens, but it is important to become familiar with their use before an emergency arises. Learning First Aid can also help with this. If an allergic person comes into contact with a food allergen, don’t wait for symptoms to occur. Give them the adrenaline shot and ring for an ambulance. Carrying two pens is important in the event one malfunctions, or one isn’t administered correctly.
How do I know if I’m allergic?
People with food allergies usually find out by accident. There are specific tests, such as Pathology and skin prick tests to determine an allergy. Having one or both parents with an allergy increases the risk of their child having an allergy themselves. The rate of food allergies is unfortunately on the rise, and Doctors and Immunologists are unsure why.