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Common Myths About Food Allergies
Many facts about food allergies are misunderstood. Here is a list of common misconceptions about food allergies along with the facts.
Myth: Food allergies are not real.
Fact: Food Allergies are real and involve the bodys immune system. In food allergy, the immune system misinterprets a food as a harmful invader and releases histamine and other chemicals to protect the body from harm. Symptoms can include hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory distress.
Myth: Food allergies are not life threatening.
Fact: It is estimated that between 150-200 people die each year due to allergic reactions to food.
Myth: Food additives and artificial flavors cause the majority of food allergic reactions.
Fact: Contrary to common belief, natural foods account for the majority of allergic reactions. The foods that cause 90 percent of allergic reactions are: peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts (i.e. almonds, walnuts, pecans), fish, and shellfish.
Myth: Each allergic reaction to food becomes increasingly worse.
Fact: The severity of a reaction is based on a number of factors, including the amount of food ingested. A food-allergic individual may experience a mild or severe reaction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of food allergy?
- Skin - itchy rash or hives, swelling, and/or eczema
- Gastrointestinal tract and/or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth; itching or tightness in the throat; nausea; abdominal pain; Vomiting; and/or diarrhea
- Respiratory tract watery, itchy eyes; runny, stuffy nose; dry, staccato cough; tightness in the chest or shortness of breath; and /or wheezing
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis, a Greek word meaning without protection, is a severe allergic reaction that is potentially fatal. It is caused by food allergy, insect stings, medication, and in rare cases, latex. During anaphylaxis, a person may experience any combination of the symptoms related to food allergy. The symptoms will affect the entire body. The person may also experience a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, or death.
Can a reaction to food allergy be prevented?
Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to avoid a reaction. Reading ingredient labels for all foods is the key to maintaining control over the allergy. If a product doesn’t have a label, allergic individuals should not eat that food. If the label contains unfamiliar terms, shoppers must call the manufacturer and ask for a definition or avoid eating that food.
What is the best treatment for a severe reaction to food allergy?
Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction. It is available by prescription via EpiPen®, an auto injector. Antihistamines are often used to control mild symptoms.
What type of testing is performed to determine food allergies?
The skin prick test is the preferred method of testing food allergies. A RAST blood test is sometimes used instead. A negative result virtually confirms that the patient is not allergic to that food. However, a positive result only indicates the possibility that the patient will have a reaction upon eating the food. A food challenge test is often needed to confirm positive results.
What does the rating system for these types of tests mean?
Different doctors and laboratories report test results in a variety of ways. Specific questions should be referred to the allergist who performed the test.
At what age should I test my child for food allergies?
No age is too young if a child is exhibiting symptoms of allergy.
At what point do most children start to outgrow their food allergies?
This can vary among individuals. Most children outgrow allergies to milk, wheat, egg, and soy by the age of 5. The age is earlier in some children and later in others. Allergies to peanut and tree nut (i.e. walnuts, pecans) are considered to be lifelong.
Are oils safe?
Refined peanut and soybean oils are safe for allergic individuals because they do not contain protein, the component of a food that causes an allergic reaction. Unsafe examples of these oils are found primarily in items from health food stores or some gourmet foods. They would be listed on the label as cold pressed oil, expeller pressed oil, or extruded oil. These oils are very expensive, and are thus not used widely by food manufacturers. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated peanut and soybean oils are also safe as they are refined oils to which hydrogen is added to form a semi-solid state.