By Dr Ch. Madhuri
Consultant Physician And Diabetologist
Published on 22/07/2022
Eating food is important because it provides nutrition and keeps us healthy and energised. Unfortunately, you may become ill after consuming some foods. The first thought that comes to our mind is allergies!
A food allergy can be much more serious, even fatal. There are several signs and symptoms linked with it, enabling the doctor to detect the problem right away. Let’s have a deep understanding of food allergies and their treatment!
What are food allergies?
Food allergies occur when the body's immune system overreacts to harmless proteins in specific foods causing severe allergic reaction symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, throat swelling, hives(skin rash) or itching, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.
Milk, eggs, fish, soy, and peanuts are some of the common allergy-causing foods. The easiest way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid food-stuffs leading to hypersensitivity reactions. Go to the nearest hospital if you experience the allergy symptoms.
What are the symptoms of food allergies?
Food allergy symptoms usually appear within two hours of eating. An allergic reaction to a particular food can cause mild to severe symptoms. Food allergy symptoms include:
- Itching in the mouth and throat
- Hives or skin rash
- Lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
- Swelling of the lips, eyelids or tongue
- Hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing
- Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea
- Cough, wheezing or shortness of breath
Are food allergies the same as food intolerances?
Food allergies are sometimes mistaken for food intolerance, which is a considerably more common reaction. Intolerance to food can be irritating, but it is a less serious condition that does not affect the immune system.
Food allergies and food intolerances are not the same health problems! Food allergies trigger an immune response resulting in serious allergic response (e.g. anaphylaxis) and might even be life-threatening.
Whereas, food intolerances involve the digestive system such that you may be able to consume a modest amount of intolerant food without suffering a grave hypersensitivity reaction. Intolerances can be uncomfortable, but they are rarely dangerous.
A food intolerance refers to difficulty digesting specific foods and later on experiencing symptoms like bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, gas/flatulence, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), etc.
Can food allergies cause life-threatening symptoms?
Yes, anaphylaxis is the most critical allergic reaction to food. This is a quickly developing allergic response that causes the body to go into shock. It can make breathing difficult or impossible. Anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated immediately.
How can food allergies be prevented?
Highly allergic foods, some of them include eggs, fish, soy, peanut protein, should be eliminated from the diet as soon as possible. Discuss it with your healthcare provider if any medical examination is needed, you can also ask about the precautions and foods that are safe to eat. You can get a food allergy testing done.
Here are some options for treating both adults and children with food allergies:
Treatment for food allergies in adults
The first step in treating food allergies in adults is to avoid the foods that trigger allergic reactions, also be prepared in case you consume something that triggers an allergic response. To control severe reactions, you may require an emergency medical kit.
Medications are available to treat some of the symptoms produced by food allergies. Talk to the doctor about the medications that are suitable for you.
Treatment of food allergies in children
It is important that the child avoid foods that initiate allergies, just as it is for adults. If you are breastfeeding your child, then avoid eating items to which your baby is allergic.
If your child cannot consume particular foods, give them vitamin supplements. Consult with the pediatrician (children’s doctor) about your child's health. The doctor may also recommend an emergency medical kit. After 3 to 6 months, some children may be offered specific meals under the supervision of their healthcare provider to determine if the child has outgrown the allergy.
After developing a food allergy, the best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to identify and avoid foods that cause signs and symptoms. For some, this is only an inconvenience, but for others, it is a significant problem. Moreover, some foods, when utilised as additional ingredients in specific dishes, may be successfully hidden. This is especially true in restaurants and other social settings.
If you are having a food allergy, follow these steps:
- Be aware of the foods and drinks you consume.
- Consult the doctor about prescribing an emergency epinephrine medication.
- Be careful at restaurants.
- Explain food allergy symptoms to the children.
If you suffer from a food allergy, avoid all foods and other ingredients that induce allergic response. You may also need to take dietary supplements to make up for any nutrients that you are not getting by avoiding allergy-causing foods. Before starting a new food plan, consult with the healthcare provider or a dietician.