Being allergic to bee stings is understandable. They’re rather painful and leave swollen red marks. Same with poison ivy or pollen. But food? It just doesn’t seem fair! Despite the unfairness of food allergies, one out of 25 adults and twice as many children younger than 3 years of age are allergic to various types of foods. To make the problem even more difficult, food allergies can arise out of the blue at any time - even if you’re a full-grown adult.
What are some of the most common food allergies, and what can you do to protect against having a dangerous reaction? Read on to find out.
A food allergy arises when your body overreacts to something you eat. Instead of processing it like it would any normal piece of food, your body’s immune system goes into a rage, releasing antibodies that cause you to experience a number of bothersome and even dangerous symptoms, including the following:
Nearly every food is a candidate to be an allergen (cause of an allergy attack), including seemingly harmless foods such as lettuce and bananas. However, some foods are more likely to cause allergic reactions than others. The most common foods that people are allergic to are shellfish (crab, lobster, and shrimp); eggs; walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts; fish; and peanuts.
On top of these, children are frequently allergic to milk products and certain food dyes. Thankfully, children often outgrow their allergies, as their developing immune systems begin to recognize the various foods for what they are: helpful sources of vitamins, minerals, and energy.
There are many ways to determine whether you have a food allergy. You may want to avoid the food you suspect for a while. If all symptoms go away, you can be pretty sure you’re allergic to that certain food. However, as that can indicate a non-allergy issue (see “Vs. Intolerance”), you may want to undergo tests at your doctor’s office. The most common food allergy tests are skin prick tests, during which a tiny bit of the food in question enters your body through tiny needle pricks, and blood tests, which require you to give a blood sample that is taken to a laboratory for testing.
Once you are diagnosed with a food allergy, the best treatment is avoiding the food whenever possible. In the event you come in contact with the food to which you’re allergic, minor reactions can be taken care of with over-the-counter antihistamines. More severe allergic reactions will require prescription medications or use of an EpiPen, which provides an emergency boost of epinephrine, a hormone that counteracts the allergen.