Food allergies affect approximately 4 million Americans with symptoms that can include difficulty breathing, an outbreak of hives, asthma, vomiting, and even death. Oftentimes food allergies are confused with an inability to tolerate certain foods. Food intolerance usually brings about an entirely different set of symptoms including a bloated feeling, gas, or other similar type of discomfort.
Food Allergies or Food Intolerance
An easy way to distinguish food allergies from food intolerances is to understand that an allergic reaction actually originates in a person’s immune system. A severe allergic reaction can result in suffocation when the throat or the tongue swells so much that a person cannot breathe. Given the fact that approximately 150 people in the United States die each year from food allergies, this condition is no laughing matter.
Individuals with known food allergies usually inherit this condition from another member of the family. When food allergy patients are studied, it is common to see that conditions such as eczema, hay fever, and asthma affect other family members.
Foods That Cause Allergies
A few different kinds of foods seem to trigger the most allergic reactions. And it seems that adults and children each have a different set of foods that cause problems. The majority of food allergy cases in children involve peanuts, milk, eggs, soy and wheat. In adults, the foods most involved with allergies include shellfish (such as shrimp, crab and lobster), peanuts, walnuts, eggs, other fish and nuts that grow in trees.
Food allergies are so serious in some people that even smelling the food can trigger an allergic reaction. However, food allergies mostly become an issue after a person has eaten a food to which he or she is allergic. Symptoms can begin right at the point of entry with lips that begin to tingle or a tongue that begins to itch. Gastrointestinal trouble follows with cramping, or the need to vomit, or the development of diarrhea. As the troublesome food breaks down and enters the bloodstream, it travels towards the lungs and at that point conditions such as asthma, eczema, shortness of breath, or low blood pressure can all develop.
Dealing with Food Allergies
To protect themselves, people with known allergies to food simply have to avoid coming into contact with these foods. That sounds easy enough, however the reality is that it is not always possible to avoid the foods that cause problems. Processed foods can contain so many ingredients that sometimes the food culprit is buried deep in the fine print. Legislation aimed at improving food labeling as it pertains to food allergies has recently been enacted and hopefully these new labeling requirements will better protect those with food allergies.
Keeping children away from food allergens is difficult unless a parent is vigilant about what goes into the child’s mouth. Parents of children with food allergies must inform everyone from school officials to neighbors about the child’s food allergies and even then, accidents happen. Fortunately for children with food allergies, most will outgrow this condition.