For some, it can be difficult to imagine that a trace of food can cause a reaction as alarming or dramatic as a food allergy. People who have seen it before know how frightening it can be. Food allergy is a serious condition, sometimes fatal. That’s why people who deal with this reality on a daily basis need to be extremely cautious when it comes time to eat.
Food allergy affects 5 to 6% of young children and 4% of Canadian adults. It is the cause of great concern for both the allergic person and those around him. To date, it can not be cured. Its management is therefore to avoid contact with the food that causes it. When an allergic reaction occurs, one must be ready to act quickly and effectively to avoid its consequences.
A food allergy is an inadequate response of the immune system to an allergen present in a food. The immune system then perceives this allergen as an element harmful to health while it is completely harmless. To combat it, it produces substances such as antibodies and histamine, responsible for the symptoms of the allergic reaction. It is important not to confuse the allergy with intolerance. Allergy is caused by the immune system while intolerance is rather associated with the occurrence of adverse effects, often involving the digestive system (diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, etc.). An intolerance is usually safe for the life of the affected person.
HOW TO DISTINGUISH AN ALLERGY FROM A SIMPLE FOOD INTOLERANCE?
When in contact with an allergen, even in small amounts, an allergic person may experience different symptoms very quickly. Some of the mild symptoms are:
RASHES ON THE SKIN:
- little buttons;
These symptoms are not dangerous and can be treated with medicines called antihistamines.However, it can be a serious food allergy if any of the following symptoms occur:
- tingling of the tongue;
- difficulty swallowing, speaking;
- breathing difficulties;
- swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat;
- drop in blood pressure;
- alteration of the pulse;
If you have ever had such symptoms after eating a food, you should talk to a doctor. In the most severe cases, especially in the absence of proper care, an allergy can result in death.It can happen that a food allergy is the cause of digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal cramps. These symptoms often accompany other more typical allergic reactions. Most of the time, they show a food intolerance.
WHAT CAUSES FOOD ALLERGY?
Food allergy can be caused by an allergen (often a protein) in a food or a food additive. Here are some of the main allergens:
peanuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios;
- Sesame seeds;
- fish and seafood;
- Food additives :
- monosodium glutamate;
- sodium benzoate.
A person may be sensitive to one or more allergens, and the intensity of the allergic reaction ranges from mild to severe. It is important to know that the same allergen can have different names. It is therefore essential to read the labels well and to be well informed about all possible names of the substance to avoid.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I’M ALLERGIC TO?
If you experience allergic symptoms while eating a food, it is recommended that you keep a diary to record the symptoms and details of your diet in the last 12 hours. Thereafter, your doctor may refer you to an allergist for certain tests (cutaneous, blood or provocation) to identify the allergen involved.
WHO IS AT RISK OF ALLERGY?
Two elements predispose to an allergy: age and heredity. Thus, children are more often affected than adults. Fortunately, many allergies may disappear over time, while some may persist throughout life. With regard to heredity, we know that children of allergic parents are more likely to suffer from a food allergy. In addition, the presence of asthma, hay fever or eczema in the family increases the risk of allergies.
- Here are some tips to avoid being exposed to a food allergen:
- Notify the allergy circle, including school staff or daycare if it is a child. Inform them of what to do in case of an allergic reaction.
- Always check the ingredient list of foods purchased and consumed.
- Look for a mention of the absence of the allergen on the labels, such as “no peanuts”. Also be on the lookout for “May contain …”.
- Avoid foods presented without a list of ingredients or containing ingredients that are unknown to you.
- Avoid sharing dishes and utensils and make sure they are clean before using them. An allergic reaction can occur by cross-contamination, i.e. via an object that has been in contact with the allergen.
Avoid bulk foods because the risk of cross-contamination is greater.
Before taking any medicine, check with a pharmacist or the manufacturer of the product to check for allergens or contact with the allergen during the manufacturing process.Wear a bracelet or pendant at all times indicating that you have allergy (for example, MedicAlert®).Exercise constant vigilance. A carelessness could be catastrophic. Be especially careful when you are outside the house: at the restaurant, in front of a buffet, while traveling, etc.
If you have to live every day with the risks of a serious allergy, it is essential that you always have an auto-injector epinephrine pen at your fingertips. You and your entourage must know how to use it. If you have an allergic reaction, you should use it immediately, then go to the emergency department or call. Do not neglect to do so because it can be a matter of survival. Your pharmacist can give you information on the optimal use of the pen and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and consult his website, where you will find a wealth of information. Being very well informed will allow you to react best in emergency situations.
” If you go looking for trouble you’ll find it. This is the proverb that must be kept in mind by people with severe allergies. Your health care professionals can help you recognize the “enemy” and manage the allergy well.