It has been estimated that as many as 520 million people worldwide suffer from food allergies, with the majority of those being children. In America, more than 12 million people have been diagnosed with food allergies. There are eight foods than account for over 90 percent of allergic reactions, and they can affect many different body systems. As such, food allergy symptoms and treatment can vary from person to person. Food allergy doctors in Colorado Springs can help allergy sufferers identify their individual allergens as well as help create a treatment plan for them.
Common Food Allergens
The most common foods that cause allergies in are:
- cow’s milk
- tree nuts such as cashews or walnuts
Many individuals with pollen and latex allergies have also developed reactions to foods that cross-react with these allergens such as bananas, kiwi, avocado, melons, and pineapples or many other fruits and vegetables.
Food allergy symptoms and treatment can vary from one person to the next. Mild symptoms might include itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, localized swelling, stomach cramps or pain, eczema and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include hives, redness of the skin around the eyes or an odd taste in the mouth.
Severe symptoms can be dramatic. They may be signs of anaphylaxis and require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, difficulty swallowing, or shortness of breath. Sufferers could also experience a sudden drop in blood pressure that makes them feel faint or weak.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis in some patients can be quite challenging, so interpretation of skin and/or blood tests should always be done by a board-certified allergist. Food allergy doctors in Colorado Springs have many methods for diagnosis. They may begin with a patient food diary to help narrow the field of suspected allergens and then continue with skin prick test or blood test. In some cases an oral food challenge many be indicated.
Currently the only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid the allergenic food. Mild symptoms are usually treated with antihistamines. Severe symptoms are treated with an epinephrine injection, which should be immediately followed up with physician care.
In some cases, food allergies can flare atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. In this case, the allergist may recommend only a certain level of avoidance as research is showing that in this case, keeping the food in the diet to a small degree may encourage the individual to develop tolerance to this food faster than avoidance will. This is not encouraged with more severe reactions to foods, so knowing what the nature of the food allergy is and having guidance from your allergist will be critical.
While allergies have been reported for many different foods, there is a short list of foods that account for most allergic reactions. Symptoms of food allergies can vary in severity from mild to very severe. Severe symptoms can be life threatening. Treatment is centered on preventing severe symptoms by avoiding the allergenic food and treatment of mild symptoms with antihistamines and/or steroids.
The Food Allergy Center at Asthma & Allergy Associates can answer your questions and help treat your food allergies. Call us to schedule an appointment or to have any questions answered.