You may not realize it, but more and more people are being sent to the hospital for allergic reactions to food. Actually, it’s in much greater numbers than you might think. According to a research paper published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, acute allergic reactions to foods accounted for about 203,000 hospital emergency department visits each year from 2001 to 2005, including about 90,000 for probable anaphylaxis. This is way higher than previous estimates made by previous researchers.
A food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body against certain foods, which can cause physical discomfort, health complication, or in worse cases, lead to death. While the exact mechanism on how food triggers an allergic reaction in some individuals remain a mystery, it’s been observed that the number of cases of Americans suffering from food allergies continue to rise over the recent years. It could be caused by various factors. It could be because of the environment, genetics, food processing, or the very immune system of the patient.
There are eight kinds of food that can account for over 90% of all allergy cases in patients. These are:
- cow’s milk – this is caused by the body’s reaction to one or more proteins found in milk. This is different from lactose intolerance where the body is not able to digest lactose. Children are the most susceptible to milk allergy, between 2%-3% of in developed countries. Fortunately, more than 80% of these children outgrow it after three years of age.
- Egg – this is caused by the body’s hypersensitivity to the protein found in egg whites. This can cause severe immune reaction that can be life-threatening. Signs of the allergy can disappear in 50% of people suffering from it by the age of 17.
- Peanut – it is caused by the body’s hypersensitivity to certain substances found in peanuts. This can cause severe reactions in individuals that can be fatal if untreated. An estimated 0.3-0.4% of the population suffers from the allergy.
- tree nuts (for example, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews) – it also has the same cause as that of peanuts, mainly because of the body’s hypersensitivity to certain substances found in nuts. People who are allergic to tree nuts tend to carry the allergy for the rest of their lives.
- Fish – this is caused by the body’s overreaction to substances found naturally in fish. Even inhalation of the vapors during cooking is enough to cause a reaction.
- Shellfish – it has the same cause with that of fishes. Although considered safe, there a possibility that a person may have strong allergic reaction shellfish and other crustaceans.
- Soybeans – the mechanism of this allergy is similar to that of nuts. Although it may cause serious complications, soy allergy can be tolerated by people in small amounts. Up to 90% of sufferers can actually tolerate dosages to 400mg.
- Wheat – this can be caused by various proteins found in wheat. Unfortunately, different protein compound produce different effects. In general, wheat can cause symptoms like anaphylactic shock, nausea, and atopy.
You’ll know if you are allergic to these foods if start to exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- tingling in the mouth
- swelling in the tongue and throat
- difficulty breathing
- abdominal cramps
- vomiting or diarrhea
- eczema or rash
- coughing or wheezing
- loss of consciousness
The bad news about food allergy is that there is no known cure for it. Although there are techniques in order to reduce its severity, like desensitization therapy, the fact remains that some food may pose too much risk on the health on an individual to warrant such treatment. The best solution for those who suffer from food allergy is to avoid the food that causes allergies all together.