A food allergy occurs when your body reacts badly to certain foods or to something in the food. Your body is built to fight off anything that is a threat to your health. At times it overreacts to things that it normally shouldn’t. This is known as a food allergy.
Every reaction is different and no two people will have the same reaction to the same foods. It is not guaranteed that you will always have a mild reaction or a severe one; it can vary from reaction to reaction.
Children under three are the most susceptible to food allergies although they can occur to older children and even grown-ups.
Sources of food allergies
The most common sources of food allergies are eggs, milk, peanuts, fish and wheat. These are also known as allergens. Foods that contain even trace amounts these foods can cause a reaction.
You can develop an allergy to any food even those that you previously ate without a problem.
Signs of an allergic reaction
Common signs of an allergic reaction include: skin rash, stomach cramps, vomiting, persistent coughing, swollen tongue, difficulty swallowing, dizziness and a weak pulse.
These reactions will vary from person to person and from food to food.
Management of allergies
The easiest way to avoid having a food allergy is to avoid those foods that you react to. It’s easier to do this when you do your own grocery shopping and prepare your own foods. Check food packages, carefully reading the ingredients to ensure that they don’t contain anything that you would react to.
When checking food labels, pay attention to statements like ‘made in a shared facility’, ‘made on shared equipment’, ‘might contain’ or ‘may contain’. These are indicators that at one point during production, that particular food might have come into contact with something that you are allergic to.
It’s also advisable to find out if the foods you are allergic to are known by any other names in the market so that you can avoid them.
Since you will be avoiding certain foods it means that you will lack the nutrients that they provide. Consult a medical doctor who will advise you on alternative sources of these nutrients that will be safe for you.
Severe food allergies
Some reactions can be life-threatening. This is known as anaphylaxis. This kind of reaction can happen almost immediately after ingesting food and it worsens quickly.
Anaphylaxis is characterized by breathing impairment and a sudden decrease in blood pressure. The chemicals released during this reaction can send your body into shock.
Adrenaline is given to treat anaphylaxis.
There is no way of predicting whether you will have a severe or mild reaction to food. Anaphylaxis can happen to people who have previously had mild reactions.
If you have a child with a food allergy, be sure to alert the school and caregivers. Inform them of what food your child is allergic to. Give them guidelines on what should be done in case your child ingests these foods and has a reaction. If you can, provide snacks and meals that are safe. Educating your child on their allergies can also help keep them on their toes in case somebody offers them something to eat that is dangerous.