In the United States alone, more than 3% of adults have one or more food allergies. There is a list of eight most common food allergens which cause 90% of the food allergies. Luckily, pepper is not one of them. Never the less,
pepper allergy can be quite the menace.Peppers belong to the nightshade group of vegetables. The key ingredient in any form of pepper which brings the heat to the table is capsacin. Peppers may contain other substances like prolifin, Bet V1 ( a common protein in food causing allergies) and P23 (another allergy causing protein). The proteins in the various substances mentioned here can cause a wide variety of physical reactions.
The different varieties of pepper causing reactions could be jalapenos, banana pepper, thai green chillies, habanero, poblanos, bell peppers, cayenne, black and white peppers etc.
Why do we get Pepper Allergy?
First thing to be understood is that allergy is an auto immune response of the body.The proteins in pepper may be perceived by the immune system as a threat in some individuals. The body produces antibodies known as the IgE antibodies. These antibodies react and bind with the protein. This particular event triggers the immune system which responds by producing large amounts of histamine from the mast cells of the skin, gut and pharynx. Histamine is the main culprit behind the symptoms seen in allergies.Histamines can dilate blood vessels causing inflammation. It can irritate nerve endings bringing forth skin reactions. Excessive sneezing is also a protective reflex of the body to get the excess histamine out of the system.
Symptoms of the Allergy
- The person may show signs of allergies from other vegetables belonging to the nightshade family like tomato, eggplant, potato or tobacco. Cross reactions are quite common when an individual is exposed to similar allergens from a different source.
- Oral allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, redness and inflammation in lips, mouth and throat.
- Itchy bumps on the skin, especially around the mouth.
- Inflamed airways can cause breathing problems.
- A drop in the blood pressure is also seen in extreme situations.
- A state of breathlessness, shortnesss of breath, tight chestedness, confusion and shock could also be brought about when things go out of hand. This state is known as Anaphylaxis.
Treatment of the condition
- Treatment is mainly done with oral antihistamines available over the counter and with prescription as well. Medications like Claritin, Allegra go a long way in relieving symptoms.
- Decongestants also are very effective in treating the said allergy symptoms.
- A combination of antihistamine and decongestant works well too in treating symptoms.
- Atopical ointments are generally advised for reactions on the skin.
- In a state of anaphylaxis, an emergency shot of epinephrine needs to be administered.
Prevention of Pepper Allergy
- Eliminating the food source causing allergies is the best solution.
- Sometimes cooking and processing peppers may make it less potent.
- Never handle raw peppers with bare hands.
- Beware of any cross contamination happening in the food you are eating.
- Read labels well and insist on knowing the ingredients of the food while eating out.