Food allergy is an abnormal reaction triggered by your immune system against certain food. Symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to one hour after food consumption. Sometimes, a potentially fatal reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, leading to constricted of airways, swollen throat, shock, rapid pulse and even a loss of consciousness.
Common Symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting or irritable bowel syndrome
- Hives, rashes and eczema
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swellings, usually lips, face, tongue and throat
- Wheezing, nasal congestion, asthma and breathing difficulties
- Muscle aches, joint pain, migraines and chronic fatigue
- Anxiety, depression and poor concentration
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Food allergy is developed when your immune system mistakenly identifies a certain food substance as harmful. To defend our bodies against foreign invaders that are deemed to be dangerous or potentially disrupting to our metabolism, our immune system produces immunoglobulins (antibodies). The antibodies mediate significant inflammatory processes as part of this defensive action, leading to various allergic symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome. There are two major types of food allergy: immediate allergic reaction and hidden allergic reactions or delayed food intolerances.
Immediate reactions soon after the ingestion of the offending substance, while easily identified, make up 5 per cent of all food reactions. Common symptoms include sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea and skin redness. This type of allergies can be diagnosed in the skin prick test or a blood test for IgE antibodies. Hidden allergic reactions or delayed food intolerances, on the other hand, often lead to masked or delayed reactions. This type of allergy usually involves another immunoglobulin called IgG. Symptoms are noticed after hours or even days upon ingestion of the food. This makes it harder to identify the offending food.
Seek Advice from Doctors
If you suspect yourself or your loved one may suffer from food allergies, consult your family doctor for advice. As some reactions may be fatal, it is best to identify the food substance through tests and be prepared beforehand.
Avoid Problematic Food
The best way to prevent food allergic reaction is to know and avoid foods that trigger them. Apart from the obvious foods items, always read food labels of manufactured foods to make sure they do not contain an ingredient you are allergic to. In restaurants, decline food that you are not sure.
For people with severe food allergies, an epinephrine autoinjector, a device containing a syringe and a hidden needle, may be prescribed by your doctor. These should be carried on your person on all times in case of emergencies. Notify the people closest to you so they can help you in times of need.