Food Allergy Basics: Over 12 million Americans have food allergies; more than 3 million of them are children (that's almost 1 out of every 25 kids). The most common allergy-causing foods are peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.), milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. Recent studies showed that 3.3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, and 6.9 million are allergic to seafood.
One out of five children has a reaction in school and a number of those reactions are with undiagnosed allergies.
What is a Food Allergy? Food allergies occur when the body thinks a food is harmful. The immune system tries to fight it off by releasing massive amounts of chemicals and histamine (HISS-TUH-MEAN). These chemicals trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions are caused by an overactive immune system. What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance? Many people think the term means the same thing; however, they do not. Food Intolerance is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system. For example, when a person eats milk products, symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain may occur. What are some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction? The most common symptom of a food-allergy reaction is hives. Other symptoms can include one or more of the following: tingling in the mouth, swelling in the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema. Anaphylaxis (ANA-FILL-AX-ISS): is a sudden, severe allergic reaction that involves several of the symptoms listed above, as well as difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. In rare cases, it can cause death in a matter of minutes. How can I treat these symptoms? A doctor will tell you what kind of medicine is needed. Many prescribe an antihistamine, such as Benadryl®. If the reaction is severe, a doctor may prescribe epinephrine. It is available as an EpiPen® or Twinject™. Is there a cure for Food allergies? Currently, there is no cure for food allergies; however, the research being conducted looks promising! How can I prevent a reaction from happening? Strictly avoiding the allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction.
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