In the U.S. alone, food allergies affect more than 30 million people, children, and adults alike. Children, however, most commonly experience food allergy symptoms. Food allergy problems can emerge at any age, and any food could trigger an allergic reaction. Food allergy numbers are on the rise, and it is still a highly misunderstood condition. Families, caregivers, daycare, and school staff all share in the responsibility of managing food allergies.

Food Allergy Defined

Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) characterize food allergy as a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition, wherein the immune system overreacts to a harmless food protein (allergen) and triggers a protective response. Some individuals with food allergy have a family history of the condition, and it is common for individuals that already experience other types of allergic reactions like eczema to develop a food allergy. Food allergy symptoms tend to overlap with the symptoms of other medical issues, like food intolerance. A food allergy diagnosis should be confirmed through the process of the evaluation conducted by an allergist.

Eight types of food are identified as responsible for 90% of all food allergy reaction. These include eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. However, any food could cause an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Food Allergy

The symptoms of food allergy can range from mild to severe and according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, may involve skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory tract. Symptoms can include stomach cramps, hives, vomiting, difficulty breathing, wheezing, weak pulse, dizziness, and shock. A more severe sign is anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening, affecting the ability to breathe and sending the body into shock. Food allergy symptoms can be triggered in minutes after food is consumed, or within two hours, or in rare instances, there could be a delay of up to six hours.

Diagnosing Food Allergies

There should be no guesswork involved when it comes to diagnosing a food allergy. An allergist is the best healthcare professional for making an accurate diagnosis. The allergist will perform an evaluation, which could involve gathering your family and medical history, deciding on a test, if necessary, and with that information establish you have a food allergy.

Management and Treatment

There is no cure for food allergy currently. Much of the focus rests on the management and treatment of symptoms. The most effective way to manage a food allergy is to avoid ingesting foods that trigger an allergic reaction strictly. It requires being vigilant and carefully checking food labels for ingredients could trigger a response.

It requires work to overcome the difficulties of dealing with a food allergy, but it doesn’t have to consume your life. You are more than your food allergy, but it’s essential to stay safe. There is the chance that children may outgrow their allergy, though it could be a lifelong condition.