Information from the Mayo Clinic shows that approximately 2 percent of the adult population and six percent of youngsters in the United States suffer from some type of food allergy. While those percentages might seem low,  with a total population of more than three hundred million in the America that translates to 6 million and 18 million folks, respectively.

Like other common causes of allergic reactions, a food allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen. Common food allergens include, but are not limited to, dairy products such as yoghurt, seafood, shellfish, peanuts and eggs.

Responding to contact or consumption, the body releases an antibody termed IgE (immunoglobulin E) because it views the food not as nutrition, but a foreign invader. The allergy symptoms are produced by the release of histamine, prostaglandins and several other compounds which are stimulated by the antibodies.

When compared with some other allergic reactions, food allergy symptoms are usually far more comprehensive. Sinus congestion together with watery eyes are a possibility. However, they are usually accompanied with or overtaken by allergic skin hives (itchy red welts that form on the skin), swelling up of the lips, tongue or pharynx, wheezing, nausea and pain in the abdomen.

In extreme cases anaphylactic shock can happen. This is a whole body or systemic allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. It involves some serious symptoms such as dizziness, constricted airways resulting in breathing problems and a dramatic decrease in blood pressure. It comes on very fast and if not treated immediately, can sometimes result in the death of the person. In the US, some 200 folks a year die as a result of anaphylactic shock.

Allergic reactions to food are on occasions localized in some folks. For example, some folks will experience a tingling feeling in their mouth after eating fresh fruit or vegetables. It is believed that this type of reaction is caused by certain proteins much the same as those that are found in ragweed pollen.

Professional diagnosis by an allergist is the only way to find out if somebody suffers from food intolerance or a food allergy.

A skin prick test can oftentimes ascertain whether or not an individual actually has an allergy to particular foods. The doctor takes an extract of the suspect substance and exposes the individual to it by introducing a tiny amount under the skin with a lancet. The area of skin is then observed for around thirty minutes to see if any itching or swelling occurs as a consequence of any reaction to the suspect substance.

In certain circumstances, a blood test may be justified. This measures the quantity of IgE produced in response to consuming the suspicious food. However, this test it is not always conclusive.

Lactose intolerance, for example, is caused by the genetically induced deficiency of the digestive enzyme required to safely process cow’s milk. The symptoms may be similar, but this is not an allergy.

Getting rid of the troublesome food from the diet and environment is the first and best line of defense. Although it is maybe a simple answer, a person who has an allergy to egg based products should avoid consuming such foods. The same applies to an individual that is allergic to peanuts or products that contain traces of them.

Since there is no cure yet for food allergies, avoidance is the best medication. However, it is not always possible to avoid some substances, in spite of your best efforts and in that circumstance, symptom relief is available. Antihistamines are a good choice as is an Epipen or similar device. The latter contains ephinephrine which can be injected by allergy sufferers in an emergency situation caused by coming into contact with certain allergens. A serious attack of anaphylaxis can be kept at bay until professional medical help can be given.

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