Food allergies are abnormal immune system responses to certain foods. Identifying food allergies is crucial in order to prevent unpleasant and, in some cases, life-threatening reactions. Approximately 5% of children and 4% of teens and adults have a clinically proven food allergy.
Food allergies occur when the immune system incorrectly perceives a specific food as a threat. This triggers the release of immunoglobulin antibodies, which attempt to combat the “hostile” substance by flooding the bloodstream with chemicals called histamines.
Symptoms vary in severity, and typically occur within minutes of eating (but in some cases may not appear for a couple of hours). For some people the reaction is unpleasant but tolerable, while in others a food allergy can trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening constriction of the airways that makes breathing difficult and may lead to shock, coma or even death. The most common symptoms of food allergies include tingling or itching in the mouth; hives or eczema; swollen lips, tongue and throat; wheezing; abdominal pain; diarrhea; nausea; vomiting and dizziness.
Most food allergies are the result of proteins found in shellfish, peanuts, eggs, milk, tree nuts and wheat. Some people mistake intolerances to certain foods for food allergies because the symptoms are similar. Lactose intolerance, digestive reactions to food additives, celiac disease and food poisoning are common conditions that may mimic food allergies.
In order to diagnose a food allergy, we’ll need to gather some information about you including the nature of your symptoms, when and how frequently they occur, how long after eating it took them to appear, whether the food you ate was cooked or raw, and any medications you are currently taking. For food allergy testing in houston, You’ll be given a physical examination and receive a skin prick and/or blood test to determine your reaction to certain foods. You may be asked to keep a food diary or try an elimination diet. When a suspect food is identified, you may be given small amounts in the doctor’s office in order to ascertain your reaction.
The only foolproof way to avoid food allergies is to completely eliminate that food from your diet. Mild symptoms can be treated with antihistamines, but severe allergic reactions may require a trip to the emergency room. Patients with severe food allergies should carry an epinephrine auto injector (e.g., EpiPen) at all times. This needle and syringe combination delivers a dose of medication in the event of a serious allergic reaction, and can prevent the onset of anaphylactic shock.