Allergic food reactions can range from mild to severe making it crucial to know what to do when an event occurs.  It is estimated that 15 million Americans and 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies and the number of people has increased rapidly in the last few years.

According to Foodallergy.org, an allergic reaction to food sends someone to the emergency room every three minutes.

The different food reactions you need to know about

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Before I discuss food allergy reactions, it’s important to understand the difference between a food allergy, food intolerance and food sensitivity. It’s very easy to use these terms interchangeable yet the causes, symptoms and treatments are very different. Firs let’s talk about food allergies.

Food allergies

Unlike food intolerances and food sensitivities, a food allergy causes an immediate reaction. The immune reaction can occur from even the smallest amount of food.

The most common signs and symptoms of a food allergy are mild and include hives, facial swelling, and tingling in the mouth.

Respiratory problems occur with the most severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This can cause your blood pressure to drop and your breathing to stop. When you have a true food allergy, you need to avoid the food completely.

The deadly eight

There are eight foods that account for 90% of all allergic food reactions.  These include:  Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Highest risk population for food allergies

The Center for Disease Control reports that food allergies are highest among children under the age of 18 however teenagers and young adults are at the highest risk of a fatal food reaction.  People with a history of asthma may be at higher risk of a severe food allergy reaction.

It’s important to note that a food allergy can affect people of all races and can begin at any age. If a person suffers from other allergic reactions, they are at higher risk for potentially developing a food allergy.

Prevention

Here’s the thing, many of the deadly eight items are common ingredients.  Label reading becomes very important.  Better yet, eat whole foods and cook from scratch so you know exactly what goes into your food.

If there are known food allergies, avoid the food, prevent cross-contamination when preparing food, communicate with schools and care-givers, wear medical identification and carry a physician-prepared emergency plan.

What to do in the event of a food allergy event

There is no known medication that prevents a food allergy.  The best defense is to avoid the food that causes an allergy.

food allergy reaction_2If a reaction does occur, medications can be given to soothe the symptoms. If you have had a severe reaction in the past, carry your medication with you at all times.

In the case of a severe reaction:

1. Treat the reaction with epinephrine.

2. Call 911 and seek medical attention.

3. Write down what was eaten as descriptively as possible.

In the case of a mild reaction:

1. Treat a reddened or swollen area with cold water.

2. Consider over the counter antihistamine medication.

3. Make note of the food item consumed.

Food intolerances

Food intolerances are usually due to a lack of enzyme in your body. The usual culprits being dairy and beans.  Food intolerances usually cause gas, bloating, discomfort and may cause changes to elimination patterns.

Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities are a type of immune reaction using a different pathway than a food allergy both of which can cause severe reactions.

Food sensitivities can affect a variety of tissues and organs in the body

Common symptoms of food sensitivities include digestive problem such as nausea, vomiting, gas, heartburn and constipation or diarrhea.  They can also cause headaches, sinus problems, runny nose or congestion and irritability.

The long term effect is body inflammation

The inflammation that is caused by a food sensitivity can promote damage to your tissues and organs over time.  However, specific foods are often hard to identify because the symptoms are often dose related and the symptoms can be delayed.

What to do now

If you suffer from food reactions, it is important to first detect what type of reaction is taking place; a food intolerance, food sensitivity or true food allergy.

If you think you may suffer from a food intolerance or food sensitivity, I encourage you to sign up for a complimentary 30-minute session.  In this session, you’ll speak with an expert to determine exactly what type of food reaction you’re experiencing and receive recommendations.

Acting quickly is crucial in managing a food allergy reaction event.  It could mean life or death.

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