Food allergies are occur because of an immune system reaction to certain foods. 1 in 20 Americans are affected by food allergies and can occur at any age, but most commonly in babies and young children. 90% of food allergies are related to milk, egg, soy, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and fish.
Food symptoms affect every individual differently. The amount of food that triggers allergic reactions differ from person to person as well as the time it takes for symptoms to occur. Some common symptoms of food-related allergic reactions included:
- Digestive problems
- Swollen airways
- Anaphylaxis – Can impair breathing, severe drop in blood pressure, and affect heart rate to a fatal degree.
Some patients may react to certain fruits with symptoms of itching and/or tingling feelings in their mouths. This is known as pollen-food allergy syndrome or oral allergy syndrome. For example, if you are allergic to birch pollen then you may have this reaction when eating apples. Pollen-food allergy could also lead to anaphylaxis on rare occasions.
Food allergy diagnosis requires medical history including what you ate, how much you ate, when symptoms developed, what symptoms you experienced, and how long these symptoms lasted. The doctor may order skin and/or blood tests when making a diagnosis. Our professional allergists use their experience to correctly examine and interpret the results of tests to correctly diagnose a food allergy.
During this test, two small amounts of liquid is applied to arms or back. One will contain the suspected food while the other will be the control site and contain no allergen. Using a small sterile probe, the skin is pricked to allow the liquid to seep under the skin. Minutes later, a hive may form on the test site and will be compared to the control site.
Blood tests are used to find the presence of allergen specific antibodies known as immunoglobulin E antibodies. These tests are used by many allergists but we will make sure your tests are based your personal diet. Without making the blood test personalized the results can be inaccurate and confusing. Our professional allergists are experienced and will properly determine when to administer a blood as well as interpreting the results.
Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)
During OIT, the food allergen is administered slowly, in small but steadily increasing doses over the course of several months. The patient is built up in the office in order to monitor for any adverse reaction and then maintenance doses are continued at home. Early clinical trials have demonstrated that OIT is safe and that it is effective in 70-80 % of patients, provided that it is properly administered in a controlled setting. The goal is to desensitize patients so that accidental exposures should not result in clinical symptoms. This should result in reduced worry, fear, anxiety, and improved quality of life.
Dealing with anxiety and fear related to food allergies
Anxiety often comes from a perceived threat (one that often is imaginary). For those with food allergies… the threat is very real. Particularly troubling for those who have been diagnosed with food allergies, some symptoms of anxiety (e.g. trouble breathing or physical symptoms) can mirror those of an allergic reaction, further increasing anxiety. Exposure to stressful/negative life or environmental events in early childhood or adulthood can lead to developing anxiety, naturally, this may include a bad or anaphylactic reaction. The Food Allergy Counselor is a resource website focused on navigating the social and emotional aspects of life with food allergies. The website houses the Food Allergy Counselor Directory, therapeutic worksheets, behavioral health resources, a blog, and the Exploring Food Allergy Families podcast.