Food Allergy

What is a food allergy?

Your body’s immune system is naturally wired to fend off infections and pathogens to keep you healthy. A food allergy is an allergic reaction that occurs when your immune system mistakenly overreacts to a particular substance in a food or the food itself, wrongly perceiving it as a danger thereby causing a protective response.
While food allergies are more common among kids (6-8% below the age of three), they can also happen in adults (up to 3%).

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Food allergy symptoms can occur rapidly after eating a particular food allergen. Symptoms include;

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Red upraised rashes
  • Flushing
  • Eye irritations or sneezing
  • Nausea
  • Swelling on either your lips, tongue, or eyes
  • Itchy sensation around your ears, mouth, and throat

What is the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance?

Food AllergyFood Intolerance
Can be fatalNever a life-threatening condition
Involves your immune system; likely to affect your gastrointestinal tract, skin, respiratory as well as cardiovascular systemsNothing to do with your immune system
Symptoms often vary from one individual to another, and patients may experience different symptoms in every episode of a food allergySymptoms are usually standardised

How do I tell if I am having a severe food allergy reaction?

Anaphylaxis is the only serious complication that can result from an allergic reaction triggered by food. Common symptoms associated with anaphylaxis include:

  • Wheezing
  • Swelling on the tongue
  • Breathing problems
  • Problem speaking or swallowing
  • Dizziness

Note: Anaphylaxis requires emergency medical attention, and an epi-pen should be immediately administered. If not addressed with utmost urgency, this condition can be fatal.

How are food allergies in Singapore diagnosed?

To correctly diagnose your food allergy, your doctor will have to conduct a food allergy test. Before carrying out the test, your doctor will ask you questions about your food allergy exposure history as well as your symptoms.

Generally, there are two specific tests that are recommended for food allergy:a blood test and skin-prick test. Your doctor may also place you under a food elimination diet to help identify the specific food you are allergic to.

  • Skin-prick test
    This is a simple test that involves placing the potential food allergen on your skin and evaluating how your immune system reacts toward it. The tested skin area is pierced with a small lancet to provoke a reaction.

How painful and uncomfortable is the skin-prick test?

There are no major side effects associated with this particular test. You may only experience some mild discomfort. Patients who are sensitive to the allergen tested may experience some itching, irritation, or swelling in the tested area.

Is the skin-prick test suitable for me?

Just like any other type of medical exam, this particular test might not be appropriate for everyone. In this respect, if you fall into the following categories of people, then the skin-prick test is not recommended for you:

  • You have experienced life-threatening allergic reactions before.
  • You have severe skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. If you have psoriasis and eczema, you may not be able to stop taking your antihistamines before the test. The IgE blood test is a far more suitable test instead.

 

What can I do to manage my food allergies?

Even though there is no cure for food-induced allergies, there are a few things you can do to help you live a normal life, including:

  • Knowing and avoiding your potential food allergens.
  • Ensuring that you always have an emergency epi-pen with you.
  • Always pay attention to the labels on all the food you purchase. If there is no labeling, be sure to ask before consuming the food.
  • Don’t restrict your diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

FAQS

The latest research indicates that the prevalence rate of food allergy has increased exponentially in the last few years. Unfortunately, there is currently no concrete evidence that explains why – but the consensus among doctors is that dietary changes in the last few years could be a potential cause.

Another theory is the hygiene hypothesis, which states that today’s kids are raised in a sterile environment. This means their immune system does not develop as they should because these kids are never exposed to germs early enough.

Although it’s possible for allergies to run in families, it is hard to tell if an individual’s food allergy is caused by genetics. Some studies suggest that the younger siblings of a kid suffering from a peanut allergy may also experience a peanut allergy problem.

Food allergy symptoms may range between mild and severe – just because a previous encounter caused some allergy problems doesn’t entirely mean that all future reactions will be similar. In this regard, a food that triggered mild allergic symptoms could possibly cause far more serious symptoms in future.

It’s also crucial to note that not every person who experiences a few symptoms after eating a particular food has a food allergy. For example, if either your mouth or throat itches after consuming unripe vegetables or fruits, this could be a reaction to pollen, medically known as oral allergy syndrome. It means your immune system has mistaken the pollen for an allergen, triggering an allergic reaction. In such a scenario, you may only need to heat the food to eliminate the allergen and avoid an allergic reaction.

Currently, there is no clinical research that suggests a food allergen can become airborne. But there are instances where individuals developed symptoms while preparing fish. However, food allergies will only be triggered by the actual consumption of food.

Those with a peanut allergy are usually bothered about the probability of encountering peanut dust, particularly when flying on airplanes. But generally, allergic reactions only occur if one comes into contact with a speck of contaminated peanut dust. Effectively sanitizing the surfaces on counters and planes will substantially minimize the chance of an allergic reaction occurring.

Gluten allergies do not exist. Gluten is a type of protein present in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Whereas some individuals can be allergic to wheat, it doesn’t imply that they have a gluten allergy. Most people usually confuse gluten allergy with wheat allergy or celiac infection.

Celiac disease is a digestive issue that can be fatal if not tackled accordingly. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition are sudden weight loss, abdominal discomfort, severe diarrhea after eating foods that feature gluten, and perhaps a rash. Children suffering from celiac disease may only experience poor weight gain as a symptom.

Yes, it’s possible to outgrow food allergies. Research shows that most kids will outgrow allergies to eggs, soy, wheat and milk. More than a quarter of children no longer experience peanut allergies after becoming adults. However, if you develop an allergy as a grownup, the chances are high that you’ll have it for the rest of your life.

Even though nearly all types of food can cause an allergy, certain foods are more likely to trigger allergic reactions, such as tree nuts, eggs, some vegetables and fruits, soybeans, peanuts as well as shellfish.

Everyone, including adults, is susceptible to food allergies. While food allergies are more likely to attack children than adults, they can persist into adulthood. Usually, food allergies among adults go unnoticed because diarrhea and nausea are common food poisoning symptoms.

Another condition that is likely to affect you as an adult is pollen-food or oral allergy syndrome. It’s often triggered when allergens in fruits, raw vegetables, and tree nuts cross-react. Common symptoms associated with this condition may include itching or swelling over the lips, tongue, or mouth. These symptoms should diminish within a short period.

Yes, allergens can potentially stick to objects and surfaces if they are not cleaned appropriately. So it means that should you come into close contact with an object that features an allergen, you may experience a rash at the place of contact. But studies have revealed that if you don’t swallow that particular allergen, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll experience further reactions.

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t develop a severe allergic reaction by touching an allergen without eating that particular food. Research has shown that if you thoroughly wash your hands using water and detergent, you can entirely eliminate the allergen. However, it should be noted that alcohol-based gel hand sanitizers can’t entirely remove allergens from your skin’s surface.

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