Food Allergies in Adults

Food allergies

affect around 6% of young children and 3 to 4 % of adults in the United States alone. Food allergies can affect individuals irrespective of age. However, they are more common in children than in adults. The good news is that the allergies in children mostly disappear with increasing age. Allergies in adults are mostly for life.

Why do we get Food Allergies?

The protein found in certain foods might be perceived as a threat by the immune system in some individuals. Allergies are auto immune reactions of the body. The white blood cells start producing antibodies known as the IgE antibodies. These antibodies react with the protein molecule and binds with them. This particular event triggers the production of histamine in the body from the mast cells of the gut, pharynx and skin. Histamine is the main culprit behind the adverse allergic reactions in the body.

Allergies could also have a heredity component associated with it. As such, no one is born with any particular allergy. However, one could be born with a tendency of being susceptible to it. One parent having an allergy could make a child 50% susceptible to develop allergies.

In the United States of America, The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) has come out with a list of 8 most common food allergens. It has been made mandatory for the food manufacturers to list out any allergen which belongs to the list and is present in the food. 90% of the allergic reactions are triggered by these eight food categories.The eight foods that constitute the notorious list are as follows:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (cashews, almonds and walnuts)
  • Fish
  • Shell Fish (such as crab, lobster and shrimp)
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Cross reactivity from the allergens is also responsible for a lot of adverse reactions. Cross reactivity of allergens would simply mean the susceptibilty of the affected individual being allergic to similar irritants found in other food. For example, traces of the ragweed and birch pollen are found in fruits like melons and apples. Anybody allergic to the specified pollen may also be hypersensitive to apples and melons too.

Symptoms of Food Allergies in Adults & Kids

The symptoms may be immediate or delayed. Increasing level of histamine in the body starts to show various symptoms in the body. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Oral allergy symptoms like redness, inflammation, itchy sensation on the lips, mouth, throat and oral cavity.
  • Angioedema or the inflammation of the eyes, lips and the face.
  • Runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Coughing.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Depression.
  • Red itchy bumps on the skin as in hives or urticaria.
  • Chronic breathing problems leading to asthma.
  • Anaphylaxis or symptoms of shortness of breath, wheezing, drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, loss of consciousnes occurs in extreme situations.

Allergy Tests to detect the hypersensitivity

  • Skin Prick Test:

    A prick is made in then skin and the allergens are introduced. Any adverse reaction(redness or swelling) on the skin generally confirms the presence of the allergy.

  • Skin Patch Test:

    The delayed response of the allergen is tested in this investigation. A patch containing the suspected allergens is stuck to the skin for a period of 72 hours. Adverse skin reactions affirm the presence of allergies.

  • Blood Tests:

    Testing the blood for IgE antibodies is also a good way of zeroing in on the allergen.

  • Food Challenge Test:

    The affected individual is encouraged to eat the food containing the suspected allergen. Symptoms are immediate confirming the presence of the allergy.

  • Diet Elimination Test:

    The food containing the suspected allergen is eliminated from diet. After the symptoms disappear the food is reintroduced. Reappearence of the symptoms indicate the presence of the allergy.

Treatment

  • The treatment options include antihistamines, decongestants or a combination of antihistamines and decongestants. Available over the counter or with prescription, they work effectively in reducing symptoms.
  • In the extreme cases of anaphylaxis, an emergency shot of epinephrine needs to be administered.

Prevention of Food Allergies

  • Eliminating the food from diet is the best possible soultion.
  • Read labels carefully before picking any food item.
  • Labels also include valuable cross contamination information. It would be mentioned in the label if the food product has been processed in a facility which deals with any one of the eight allergens from the list.
  • Allergy shots or immunotherapy is also a good preventive option. The individual is gradually given small doses of the allergen one is sensitive to and the immunological tolerance is built.