Symptoms and Treatment of Food Allergies
Ever eaten something that made you break into rashes? How about itchiness of the throat? Itchy eyes or ears? Itchy hands or feet? These are actually signs of food allergies. An estimated 11 million Americans suffer from true food allergies, with symptoms ranging from the mildly inconvenient to uncomfortable to complete collapse of major organs of the body, a condition known as anaphylaxis.
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Food allergies are a condition where the body's immune system becomes hypersensitized. As a result of this hypersensitized state, your body's immune system mistakenly believes that food entering the body is harmful and creates antibodies to counteract it. The next time you eat that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of these antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, as a protective measure against the "harmful" substance.
The release of these chemicals is what makes your food allergies act up. The allergic symptoms could affect any part of the body, but mostly the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and the cardiovascular system.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
If you've had allergic reactions before, then you probably are already familiar with the symptoms of food allergies. Symptoms include a wide range of sensations, from a tingling sensation in the mouth, the swelling of the tongue and the throat, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and even death. Typically, the symptoms appear within a few minutes or two hours after the person has eaten the food he or she is allergic to.
Can You Outgrow an Allergy?
Most people do outgrow their food allergies. However, peanuts, nuts, fish, and shellfish are considered lifelong allergies. Some research is currently being done in this area and the results look promising.
Treatment of Food Allergies
The best treatment for food allergies is strict avoidance of the foods to which you have allergic reactions. At this time, there are no medications that totally cure food allergies. Your doctor might prescribe drugs to treat the symptoms, but as to cure, there is nothing that your doctor can prescribe. Epinephrine, also called "adrenaline," is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction.
Since avoiding food that you are allergic to is the best treatment, you should read ingredient labels for all foods. If the food has no label, you should avoid eating it altogether. If the label contains unfamiliar terms, ask the manufacturer for a definition or avoid eating that food. Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry, so if you are not sure about a food's ingredients, avoid it. When dining out, choose foods that you know you are not allergic to. For example, certain breads or rolls might have peanut oil or sesame seeds. If you are allergic to those items, you may make yourself sick.
How Do You Know For Sure That You Have Food Allergies?
Many people will say that they have a food allergy when in fact they do not. Something else may have been happening - such as a mild case of the flu - and the person mistakenly avoids certain foods with the false belief that he or she is allergic. If you suspect that you have a food allergy, try to keep a food diary where you make a list of all the foods that you've eaten for the day and whether or not you suffered any allergic reactions. The information you learn from your list could help you determine exactly what foods trigger what, and could also give your doctor important information about your food allergies.
It is always helpful to see an allergy specialist who can determine exactly what you are or are not allergic to from a few simple tests. When dealing with allergies, your best option is to see a medical professional.