The Ugly Truth About Food Allergies

The Ugly Truth About Food Allergies

As an allergist/immunologist, I see a lot of patients with food allergies. After counseling patients on the nuances of food allergies and answering similar but very relevant questions, I realized I should use my blog to help spread awareness on food allergies.

Usually you need to have tried a food prior to having a food reaction. Essentially your immune system gets a taste of a food and upon the next exposure can cause symptoms listed below if you have a food allergy. Some people may react to foods the first time they eat it.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Hives/lip swelling/tongue swelling
  • Shortness of breath/coughing/wheezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Uterine cramping

Most common food triggers include peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs and wheat. Your allergy doctor can do a skin test which helps with diagnosing a food allergy IF you experienced a reaction after eating a food. A skin test is exposing you to very small amount of the suspected allergen in your skin. It is painless and very helpful in diagnosing allergies.

A reaction usually occurs a few minutes to one hour after consumption of a food allergen. If you have more than one symptom (hives and vomiting) you need your epi-pen. If you know you are allergic to shrimp and ate a piece accidentally and develop one symptom like wheezing – you should give yourself the epinephrine injection.

After a reaction that required epinephrine, you should go to the ER (emergency room) to get monitored. Epinephrine revs up your heart rate and blood pressure which is how your body is able to combat the dysfunctional immune response to a food allergen. Keep in mind you can inject the epi-pen in the thigh over your clothes. Don’t waste time taking any clothes off! Also, sometimes one dose of epinephrine is not enough. That is why its important to keep two auto-injectors with you.

Random Tips You Need to Know

-Although MOST patients have a food allergic reaction within a few minutes to an hour, some people may have a reaction a few hours later. This is much harder to diagnose as the time frame can fool even the most seasoned allergist and it is rare. If the diagnosis isn’t clear, many physicians may not think of administering epinephrine which is the ONLY life saving medication for an allergic reaction.

*Unfortunately, this is how Oakely Debbs passed away. He ate a cake with walnut resin and had a fatal allergic reaction a few hours later. It was hard to diagnose what his symptoms were from due to the time lapse between accidentally eating the cake and the symptom onset. 

-70% of fatal food allergy cases are due to delayed recognition of an allergic reaction*

-Allergy to exercise? Well kind of. If you eat certain foods then exercise, then that can increase the allergenicity of foods (wheat is the most likely culprit). Researchers have found that if you are menstruating, taking NSAIDS (advil, aspirin, ibuprofen etc) prior to eating certain foods then that can also increase the allergenicity of a food. See your allergist if you are experiencing the above symptoms after exercise.

 

There are a lot of studies that are ongoing in trying to eliminate food allergies so there is hope! Please feel free to leave a message below.

 

 

*FAACT – www.foodallergyawareness.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Food Allergies”

  • Food allergies are so common! I didn’t realize there was a link bw menses, nsaids, and increasing allergenicity of certain foods. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this great info! I’d love to read about allergic reactions vs adverse reactions to antibiotics. We get so many people in our clinics that had a ‘possible rash’ to an abx when they were very young. So it gets put on their allergy lists without ever getting tested by an allergist. Would love to hear your perspective!

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