Food allergies: Facts & FAQs

Food Allergies are the most common cause of ER (Emergency Room) visits all around the world. But people don’t have enough information about food allergies, whether are they genetic, which foods can cause food allergies, what precautions to take if you have food allergies, and how to provide medical aid to a person having an allergic reaction.  

All these answers can be found in this article about food allergies.  

What is a Food Allergy?  

Ans. It is a defense mechanism of our body that considers the protein present in food as a threat. Symptoms of food allergy are hives/ rashes, swelling of your face, tongue, or lips, difficulty in breathing, etc. These symptoms can vary from mild to life-threatening.  

Is there any cure for Food Allergies?  

Ans. At present, there is no cure for food allergies. Treatments can only cure the symptoms of food allergies. The only thing you can do is to avoid that food completely.  

What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?  

Ans. These terms are used interchangeably, but they are quite different. A food allergy happens when the immune system thinks food is a threat. Food intolerance happens when your body has trouble digesting the food. And food allergies can be life-threatening, but it is not the case with food intolerance.  

 What foods can cause food allergies? 

Ans. It can happen to any food your body is allergic to. There are over 160 foods that are responsible for food allergies as listed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).  

What are the major food allergens?  

Ans. While there are over 160 food allergens, these eight are identified by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) as the major food allergens that make up 90% of food allergens in America. These are: 

  • Milk 
  • Eggs 
  • Fish  
  • Shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp) 
  • Tree nuts  
  • Peanuts 
  • Wheat 
  • Soybeans 

 What are the symptoms of food allergies? 

 Ans. The major symptoms of food allergies are:  

  • Hives with flushed skin or rashes 
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling 
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea 
  • Abdominal cramps 
  • Coughing or wheezing 
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness 
  • Swelling of the throat and vocal cords 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Loss of consciousness 

What is Anaphylaxis?  

Ans. It is a serious allergic reaction that can quickly cause death. Immediate use of an epinephrine auto-injector is the primary treatment for anaphylaxis.  

How much food allergen can cause a reaction? 

Ans. Even a tiny bit of an allergen can cause a reaction in people who have food allergies.  

How long will it take to start reacting after eating the food?  

Ans. Symptoms can start in a few minutes or take as long as 2 hours after eating. In some cases, the first symptoms go away, then the second wave of symptoms occurs 1 to 4 hours later or sometime even longer. This is called a biphasic reaction. That is why a patient is kept under observation for 4 to 6 hours after the first reaction happens.  

How many people have food allergies?  

Ans. There are more than 250 million people worldwide who have food allergies. In the US, 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 6 million children (about twice the population of Arkansas).  

Can a person outgrow his or her food allergies?  

Ans. Well, even with the latest research, there is no way to tell if someone can outgrow his or her food allergies. But some studies show that a person is likely to outgrow milk, egg, wheat, or soy allergy by the age of 16 years. However, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish tend to be lifelong.  

What prevention should I take to avoid food allergies?  

Ans. The only precaution you can take is to avoid that food permanently. Following a special allergen-free diet while considering all the ingredients, always carrying emergency medications, and wearing a medical alert bracelet are some other vital prevention strategies for you. Always carry your Food Allergy Action Plan (FAAP) and medication such as a fast-acting antihistamine (Benadryl®) and an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen® or Auvi-Q™). 

Although there is no cure for it, taking precautions and avoiding food that you are allergic to can help you live a healthy life without any worries. 

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