The primary goal of the immune system is to keep the body healthy. In the case of food allergies, the immune system mistakes harmless food proteins as a threat and attack. Large amounts of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody, are produced. IgE causes the release of histamine and other chemicals, which can trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Food Allergy Diagnosis
While any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, there are eight foods that account for almost 90 percent of all food allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
Food allergies can be diagnosed through a blood test. A blood test is used to measure the amount of allergen-specific IgE antibodies present in the blood.
Food Allergy Causes
If blood testing is negative, an oral food challenge can also be performed in order to rule out a food allergy. This test takes place in the clinic where the patient will be under constant medical supervision. This ensures if they experience an allergic reaction it can be treated immediately. The food in question is ingested in small amounts and the challenge is stopped at the first sign of a reaction. After a few hours, if no reaction has occurred, the patient is no longer allergic.
If the cause of the allergy symptoms cannot be determined, an elimination diet is recommended. Potential trigger foods are eliminated from the patient’s diet for a few weeks. If the symptoms resolve, the eliminated food is most likely the culprit. To make sure, the patient may be asked to reintroduce the food back into their diet to see if the symptoms return.
Food Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to life strengthening. Mild symptoms include hives, itchy mouth, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain and sneezing. Severe symptoms include swelling of the lips, tongue and/or throat, shortness of breath and turning blue. Any one of these severe symptoms or a combination of mild symptoms can be the sign of a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. In the event of this reaction, epinephrine should be administered and the patient should be taken to the hospital immediately.
Food Allergy Treatment
Mild reactions can be treated with antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec.
While there are drugs available to treat the symptoms of an allergic reaction, the only way to prevent one is through strict avoidance of the problematic foods.
A food allergy should not be taken lightly. The best way to stay safe is to know exactly what can cause a reaction and to have a treatment plan in place. The doctors at Southern Utah Ear, Nose, Throat, Allergy, and Facial Plastics have the tests needed to determine what patients are allergic to.
Call Southern Utah Ear, Nose, Throat, Allergy, and Facial Plastics at (435) 628-3334 for more information or to schedule an appointment.