Food allergies: By definition.

“Peter Rabbit”, the movie, received quite a backlash when viewers perceived it to have shown disregard and taken the plight of food allergies rather too lightly. Whether the uproar was justifiable or overboard, the moviemakers apologized for the offending scenes. But the saga showed something important; that something had changed about people’s perception of food allergies, and that they are now being taken more seriously than ever before.

First, by definition, a food allergy is an abnormal reaction to food that is thought to be harmless. Food allergies manifest in a number of ways and the responses may range from mild to severe; typically manifesting within minutes or even after several hours.

The symptoms include itchiness, vomiting, swelling of the tongue, swelling of the lips, diarrhea, hives, trouble breathing. Intolerance to a portion of food is different from a food allergy in a way that food intolerance does not induce an immune response and manifests as digestive problems that may be less severe than those presented in the allergic responses. Severe allergic responses are usually known as anaphylaxis.

Allergies have been discovered to occur when Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is part of the body’s immune system binds to food molecules eliciting the disturbing response, the response is usually the body’s response to a protein in the food which triggers inflammatory chemicals such as histamine.

Commonly known food allergies include cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, fish tree nuts, soy, wheat, rice, and fruit; these may vary significantly from place to place and we will discuss each of them individually in our next letter. Exposure to these allergies at a young stage of growth may be protective for most would-be sufferers.

The risk factors for most likely sufferers include a history of allergies, vitamin D deficiency, obesity, and high levels of uncleanliness.

Diagnosis usually involves a medical history, skin prick test, or blood tests for specific IgE antibodies.

Management of food allergies

As a truism, there is no known cure for food allergies. Management usually involves staying away from the offending foods or knowing how to appropriately handle reactions when food is ingested. Extra vigilance is paramount in those that carry a high risk of presenting with a food allergy. Some actions to follow may include:

  • Always read labels: This helps ensure that you are well aware of contents in a product before ingesting it, some of the commonest allergens are declared on many labels if products carry these ingredients.
  • Formulate a doctor-approved action plan: A doctor can help you assess, and approve an action plan to be followed in case one ingests a food containing an allergen
  • Carry your medication: There are some very important medications that are used to reverse allergies as approved by your doctor that you should carry with you for use when you need them.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet indicating your food allergies: This will also help when you dine out, some of these details may be divulged to restaurants to ensure that your order is allergen-free.

Some food allergies such as milk, eggs, and soy allergies resolve with age. But some don’t resolve with age and should be continuously managed appropriately as they manifest.

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