Thursday, March 06, 2014
Food allergy affects roughly 15 million Americans and 17 million Europeans, most being young children. Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Food allergy affects an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. While there's no cure, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older. It's easy to confuse a food allergy with a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. While bothersome, food intolerance is a less serious condition that does not involve the immune system. Symptoms typically appear within minutes to several hours after eating the food to which you are allergic.
While allergies tend to run in families, it is impossible to predict whether a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy or whether siblings will have a similar condition. Some research does suggest that the younger siblings of a child with a peanut allergy will also be allergic to peanuts.
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. Just because an initial reaction causes few problems doesn’t mean that all reactions will be similar; a food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms at another time.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
• Tingling or itching in the mouth
• Hives, itching or eczema
• Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
• Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
• Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness, light-headedness or fainting
In some very rare cases, the reaction may be delayed by four to six hours or even longer. Delayed reactions are most typically seen in children who develop eczema as a symptom of food allergy and in people with a rare allergy to red meat caused by the bite of a lone star tick.
Another type of delayed food allergy reaction stems from food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), a severe gastrointestinal reaction that generally occurs two to six hours after consuming milk, soy, certain grains and some other solid foods. It mostly occurs in young infants who are being exposed to these foods for the first time or who are being weaned. FPIES often involves repetitive vomiting and can lead to dehydration. In some instances, babies will develop bloody diarrhoea. Because the symptoms resemble those of a viral illness or bacterial infection, diagnosis of FPIES may be delayed. FPIES is a medical emergency that should be treated with IV rehydration.
See a doctor or allergist if you have food allergy symptoms shortly after eating. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This will help your doctor make a diagnosis.