If you read food labels, you may notice this allergy warning or something similar: “this product was produced in a factory that also processes nuts, soybeans, etc.” The prevalence of food allergies has grown rapidly over the last decade. According to the CDC, from 1997 to 2007, reported food allergy cases increased by 18% in children under the age of 18 years old. Food allergies affect up to 8% of children and 3%-4% of adults. Other allergic conditions such as atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma are more common in children who have food allergies.
What is a food allergy?
Food allergies are a potentially serious immune response to eating specific foods or food additives. Food allergies is an immunoglobulin (Ig)E- or non-IgE-mediated immune response to food protein. Eight types of food account for over 90% of allergic reactions in affected individuals: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.
Symptoms of food allergies may include the following:
- Flushed skin or rash
- Tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
- Face, tongue, or lip swelling
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
- Coughing or wheezing
- Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
- Swelling of the throat and vocal cords
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Severe food allergies can be life-threatening and may lead to a reaction called anaphylaxis. According to the FDA, each year in the U.S., it is estimated that anaphylaxis to food results in: 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths.
Adverse reactions to foods are sometimes confused with food allergies, but are really food intolerances. These non-immunologic food reactions can be metabolic (lactose intolerance), pharmacologic (chemical migraine triggers such as tyramine, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, nitrates/nitrites, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate), or toxic (scombroid poisoning or food poisoning) in origin.
Food sensitivities can have varied symptoms including gas, bloating, asthma symptoms, fatigue, headaches, weight gain (and difficulty losing weight), obesity, joint pain, depression and food cravings.
To get tested for food allergies, call Dr. Ross’s office (303) 355-2445.