Food Allergies 101: What You Need to Know When It’s New to You

Food Allergies 101: What You Need to Know When It’s New to You

Not surprisingly, we talk a lot about food allergies here at The Allergy Ninja. The fact that you’re here, reading this article on this site probably means you know someone with food allergies. You may be someone who is learning (or has learned!) to manage life with food allergies. Perhaps, however, you’ve just stumbled across this article. Maybe you’re new to living with allergies or maybe someone has passed on a link to this space on the internet to help you understand what it means to live with food allergies.  If that’s you, we’re glad you’re here!

What Is a Food Allergy?

Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakes a certain kind of food as a harmful substance and triggers a protective response. That response is what we call an allergic reaction.

What Foods Can Cause Allergic Reactions?

While some food allergies are more common than others, people can be allergic to nearly anything. According to FARE, more than 170 different foods have been reported for causing allergic reactions. However, in the US there are eight major food allergens: milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish and fish. The number of sesame allergies is also climbing, and there is a movement calling on the FDA to include this allergen within its labeling guidelines.

What Does an Allergic Reaction Look Like?

If you suspect something is a symptom of a reaction, consult a medical professional immediately. Keep in mind that reactions can span from mild to severe and they can progress rapidly. Symptoms can range from hives and localized itching to more severe, life threatening responses like shortness of breath and a drop in blood pressure. You’ll find more complete lists on sites like FARE and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. As stated previously, if you feel odd or notice something out of the ordinary after eating a particular food, it’s best to consult a board-certified allergist.

How Common are Food Allergies?

Recent research suggests 1 in 10 people in the US have food allergies. In children, the rate is closer to 1 in 13. To put that into context: if there are 26 children in your child’s class, 2 of them will have food allergies. That number is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says that allergy prevalence in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.

Food Allergies Are Diagnosed in Childhood, Right?

While most food allergies do present during childhood, up to 15% of allergic patients were first diagnosed in adulthood.  

Can You Outgrow a Food Allergy?

This is a great question for your allergist. Some children do outgrow their food allergies. Your allergist will want to monitor test results over a span of time and will, if appropriate, discuss the likelihood of outgrowing allergies based on your medical history. There are some food allergies that patients are more likely to outgrow than others. For example, it’s less common (although not unheard of) for individuals to outgrow peanut, tree nut, shellfish, and fish allergies.

Is There a Cure?

At the moment, there is no cure for food allergies. Food allergies are managed by avoiding allergens and treating reactions as directed by their doctor. Research is ongoing, however, including several potential therapies. When you’re seeking a board-certified allergist to help you manage allergic living, find a doctor who stays up-to-date on current research and recommendations – and more importantly, a doctor who’s willing to take the time to discuss them with you.

What Else Should We Know about Food Allergies?

Food allergies impact more than what’s on your plate. About 1 in 3 children report being bullied because of their food allergies. In fact, allergic children are about twice as likely to be bullied than their peers who do not have a medical condition. In addition, food allergies can lead to restrictive diets that may rely on specialty food items or allergy brands that come at a higher price tag than standard packaged goods. This can quickly add up. The cost of food and medical related costs, for example, costs US families collectively nearly $25 billion annually.

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