Food Allergies from Apples to Zucchinis
If you have food allergies in Houston, Texas you are not alone; almost four percent of all adults and almost eight percent of all children report suffering from food allergies.
Food allergies occur when your immune system mistakes a harmless food protein (an allergen) as a threat and attacks it. Large amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) are produced during this attack; this antibody releases histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
8 Foods That Cause Most Food Allergies
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: peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
Food Allergy Testing
In order for your allergist to determine what you are allergic to, you will have to visit your Houston allergy clinic for food allergy testing. The first step in your food allergy testing is a skin prick test. A skin prick test involves placing a small amount of an allergen on your skin (usually in the form of an allergen extract).
The skin is then “pricked” with a plastic or metal needle to allow a small amount of the solution to enter just below the surface of the skin. After 15 to 20 minutes, the swelling and redness at the site of the test is measured. The size of the reaction is used to determine the severity of the allergy.
Next, a blood test is used to measure how much IgE is in your blood. The more allergen specific IgE in your blood, the more likely you are to be allergic. Blood tests are typically used to confirm the results of a skin test; they may also be used in lieu of skin tests if a serious allergy makes skin testing unsafe.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Finally, if the cause of symptoms cannot be pinpointed after a blood and skin prick test, an elimination diet is recommended. This involves removing foods you could be allergic to from your diet for two to four weeks. If your symptoms resolve, the eliminated food is likely the culprit. To be sure, your Houston allergist will have you gradually reintroduce the food back into your diet to see if the symptoms return.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild to life threatening. Mild symptoms include hives, itchy mouth or ear, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain and sneezing.
Severe symptoms can include swelling of the lips, tongue and/or throat, shortness of breath, drop in blood pressure and turning blue. Any one of these severe symptoms or a combination of mild symptoms can be a sign of the life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
In the event of an anaphylactic reaction, epinephrine should be administered and you should be taken to the hospital.
Antihistamines such as Benadryl and Zyrtec are used to treat mild reactions. The antihistamines reduce the amount of histamine (the substance that is produced during an allergic reaction) in the body and thus reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching.
While there are drugs available to treat a reaction, the only way to prevent one is through strict avoidance of the problematic foods and to make sure you have plans in place for what to do if you do start to experience symptoms.
Your Houston allergist will work with you to come up with a food allergy and anaphylaxis emergency care plan and discuss tips on how to avoid the foods you are allergic to. Contact yourHouston allergy clinic to schedule an appointment.