A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to an allergen (a usually harmless ingredient) contained in various foods which can then trigger an immune reaction. The allergic reactions to particular food usually happen within 5 minutes to 1 hour after you eat or touch that food.
Immune reactions can range from mild to severe and if not treated appropriately, can often time lead to death. A study by UHS (University Hospital Sharjah) suggests that food allergies and intolerances are on the rise.
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Almost 6% of children in the UAE are affected by food allergies and intolerances. The study further states that there is no certainty as to why food allergies are increasing in the population other than natural population growth.
Other possible factors such as environmental conditioning, types of food consumed as well as genetic inheritance have some influence on how food allergies are developed or triggered.
So let’s break down what exactly food allergies are and what to expect if it is present in a person.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
When it comes to allergic reactions in children, the majority of children will outgrow their allergies with age. Food allergies in children are usually not severe.
Common symptoms for mild allergies include:
- Swelling in areas of the body, face and commonly around the mouth
- Unusual abdominal pain or discomfort
- Itchy, watery and swollen eyes
- Runny nose or sneezing
- Hives (Circular shaped red patches on the skin that are very itchy)
Though most allergies dissipate with age, it should not be taken lightly as a minority of people will carry forms of allergy into adulthood.
Severe allergy symptoms or anaphylaxis include:
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling or tightening of the throat
- Dizziness and nausea
- Lose consciousness/pass out
- Tongue swelling
- Throwing up
- Pale skin
In Case of an Emergency
A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and is considered a medical emergency.
Any of the severe allergic reactions that can cause sudden illness, difficulty breathing and the inability for the person to function normally are considered anaphylaxis and should be treated seriously.
You need to call medical emergency services immediately. Do not try to get yourself to the hospital, but call an ambulance instead because you might pass out from difficult breathing. An ambulance is usually the fastest way to get help for your allergy.
If you have an autoinjector, you should keep it with you at all times. Use it right away if you think you are having a severe allergic reaction. After you use the autoinjector, call for an ambulance. That’s because the symptoms might come back and you might need more treatment in the hospital
Any person who has a history or has previously suffered from food allergies needs to seek professional medical advice. In some cases, the person with the allergy may be given an adrenaline injector if necessary.
Allergic reactions can occur at any time, and symptoms can react quickly, those who are aware of their severe allergic reactions will usually carry adrenaline injectors.
Not having one accessible could have extremely dire consequences, which is why it is advisable those who suffer from food allergies to always bring one as it’s still better to be safe than sorry.
Foods Commonly Associated with Allergies
Foods that are commonly associated with allergies and intolerance include:
- Dairy products (Milk)
- Tree Nuts (Walnuts, Pine Nuts, Pecans, Almonds)
- Shellfish, such as shrimp or oysters
- Grains (Oats, Wheat, Barley, Rye)
How to Identify Food Allergies
If you think you, your child or someone you know may have a food allergy or intolerance, it is crucial to seek advice from a medical practitioner.
That way you will have a better understanding of the allergy that is affecting the person, or whether it is an allergy at all.
Please note that any of the symptoms above may also be the result of other overlapping reactions and disorders present in people.
If this is the case, there are other treatments, causes, and information you’ll need to seek advice on from your medical practitioner. Not all food reactions are based on allergies or food intolerance.
If you or another person is experiencing unusual reactions from consuming certain foods, it is best to avoid that food at all costs until you seek medical advice immediately, as risking a reaction can be fatal without the necessary treatment and action.
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