Many people confuse food allergies and food intolerance; there is a major difference. An allergy is when a person’s immune system treats a substance like an inappropriate invader and reacts to something harmless to most people. Some common examples include proteins from eggs and milk. Both conditions usually involve the digestive tract with symptoms such as bloating and cramping. However, a food allergy reaction can be life-threatening. Thus, it is important to know the difference.
Food allergies are one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis, a rare but severe allergic reaction involving the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Food Allergy symptoms
- Digestive symptoms (e.g., stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea)
- Intense itching
- Swelling of the face
- Rash and hive (urticaria)
- Rising anxiety
- Anaphylaxis symptoms
Everyday food allergies
Some people are allergic to proteins in egg yolk or egg white. Eggs are regarded as one of the most common causes of allergic reactions in children. In Fact, after milk, eggs are the most common food allergy. Studies estimate that 2.5 % of young children are allergic to eggs, and show that about 70% of these children will outgrow it. The research also suggests that today, children are outgrowing this allergy slower than before, with many children beyond the age of five still showing signs of the allergy.
A milk allergy is different from being lactose intolerant. It’s the most common allergy among infants and children. Between 2 – 3 % of children under the age of three are allergic to milk. However, 80 % of these children are likely to outgrow it. Research also suggests that children are outgrowing their milk allergy more slowly than before, with many children still allergic beyond the age of five.
- Peanut allergy
Thisallergy is common in both children and adults and is the major culprit of severe allergic reactions. Moreover, studies show that people allergic to peanuts have a higher risk of anaphylaxis than any other foods. Only about 20 % of those with a peanut allergy will outgrow it.
- Tree nuts
There is generally a lot of confusion between peanuts and tree nuts. Tree nuts refer to legumes. More than half of those allergic to tree nuts reported having a peanut allergy. In contrast, only one out of three with a peanut allergy reported a tree nut allergy. A tree nut allergy usually lasts a lifetime, with fewer than 10 % e outgrowing it.
- Seafood Allergy
Many people enjoy seafood, but unfortunately for some, there is a chance of developing a seafood allergy. Fish and shellfish are biologically different;therefore, someone with a shellfish allergy might not be allergic to fish and vice versa. Many people develop a seafood allergy as adults. It is said that 60% of shellfish and 40 % of fish allergies develop in adulthood and usually last a lifetime.
- Soy Allergy
Soy is a very common allergy in children. Normally, allergic reactions first appear in infants and children under the age of three and most outgrow the allergy by the age of 10. Soy is used as an ingredient in many products making it vital to read food product labels.
- Wheat Allergy
Most people with a wheat allergy have a stomach ache after consuming foods like cereal, pasta and bread. The intake of wheat followed by exercise can lead to what is known as runners' shock (wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis). Reactions to wheat allergies can also occur by inhaling rather than ingesting wheat flour. Some people with this allergy might also react to other cereals such as rye or barley. This allergic reaction is often confused with other gluten-related disorders such as celiac disease because of the similarities in symptoms.
As many as 250 million people may suffer from food allergies, and more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions. Thus, it is crucial to be vigilant, avoid exposure to certain foods and get an allergy test if you suspect you may be allergic.