Food allergy is a kind of immune response that occurs after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergen in the food can trigger symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen lips, etc. When our immune system mistakenly thinks of food as a foreign invader, it triggers an immune response resulting in the release of chemicals from the body as a part of defense mechanism, causing symptoms (hypersensitivity reaction). In severe cases, food allergy can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Statistics-wise, food allergy affects 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and 3 percent of adults. There is no proven cure as such, some children outgrow their food allergy as they get older.
Foods that cause hypersensitivity reactions in people are known as food allergens. These include certain foods such as eggs, milk, peanuts, fish, and shellfish, and it is known that seafood allergy is one of the most common food allergies in adults and children as it constitutes a major part of Asians’ diets. Food allergic reactions vary in severity from mild – involving hives and lip swelling to severe – life-threatening anaphylaxis that leads to fatal respiratory problems
Signs and symptoms of a food allergy:
Itching in the Mouth
Hives (itchy red rash)
Might Affect the Ability to Talk or Breathe
Pale Colouring of Skin
Shortness of Breath
Vomiting and Stomach Cramps
Abdominal Pain, Diarrhea
The term ‘Anaphylaxis’ may pop up whenever we are discussing food allergies:
Anaphylaxis is a type of severe allergic reaction which is potentially life-threatening. It can impair your breathing and send the body into a stage of shock. It happens soon after being exposed to the specific food allergen but sometimes it takes a few hours to arise.
The symptoms usually come on quickly and might worsen rapidly such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- loss of consciousness
- respiratory problems, shortness of breath, which often become worse
- streaming nose
- rapid swelling of the throat, lips, face, and mouth
- a fast heartbeat
There are 8 major food allergens or Big-8 which comprises milk, peanuts, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and soybean. These foods account for about 95% of all food allergies. In adults, the foods that trigger sensitivity reactions include fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts such as walnuts. Allergens common in children are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat.