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Food Allergy Action Month
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Food allergies affect 2% of the adult population and 2-8% of children. Food allergies can be defined as an immune system reaction that occurs after consuming specific types of foods. Food allergies can have mild to severe reactions. The reactions to a food allergen can range from gastrointestinal discomfort to life-threatening allergic reactions. The major food allergens are cow's milk, wheat, shellfish, egg, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy. The manufacturers tend to use alternative names or unfamiliar names when the items are processed. Therefore, it is important to read and understand each ingredient before consuming the food item. The common symptoms are itching or tingling lips/tongue/throat, hoarseness and sensation of tightness in throat, swelling of lips or tongue, abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea and/or vomiting, and diarrhea.
The differences between food allergies and food intolerances are the way the body reacts to the offending food. Food allergies involve the immune system and food intolerances are a metabolic issue. There are different diagnostic tests that the Allergist can perform to diagnose a food allergy. These tests may include: skin prick test, blood test, oral food challenge, and trial elimination diet.
Cross-contamination can be a major issue for individuals with food allergies. This can occur at home and in restaurants when a "safe" food encounters an allergen. There are many ways to avoid cross-contamination at home which are separating allergenic foods from other foods, thoroughly cleaning pots and pans after contact with an allergen, discontinue using wood bowls or utensils, and wash hands after contact with a food allergen or wear gloves during food preparation. To prevent cross-contamination in restaurants avoid the following: buffets, stores that have food in bulk bins, and sliced deli meats. The server should be notified of a food allergy and inquire about hidden ingredients. Try to avoid seafood restaurants if you have any type of seafood allergy.
Simonne AH, Gollub EA. Decoding food labels: Tools for people with food allergies. UF IFAS Extension.
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy723. Published November 2014. Revised November 2007 and April 2017. Accessed April 19, 2018.
Diagnosis and testing. Food Allergy Research and Education website. https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/diagnosis-testing. Accessed April 19, 2018.