Allergy & Asthma Centers – Fredericksburg
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Fredericksburg, VA 22401
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Facts About Food Allergies
Has your child experienced an adverse reaction after eating, causing you to wonder if he or she has food allergies? Recent surveys show that as many as 25 percent of American households have made major overhauls to the foods they eat due to a belief that someone in the family has food allergies.
Thankfully, scientific studies suggest a much lower number of people with actual food allergies only about 6-8 percent of children (and two percent of adults).
This data shows that many people mistake any bad reaction to food as a food allergy. But there is an important difference between food intolerances and food allergies.
Food intolerances vs. food allergies
Food intolerances occur when the body has an abnormal reaction to food. The majority of these reactions occur due to the quality of the food itself. Eating expired fish or shellfish, for example, can cause hives, itching, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
While these symptoms look like allergic reactions, they are not caused by an allergy.
Bacteria and viruses can cause food poisoning.Food poisoning may cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting which can be confused with symptoms of food allergies.
Other causes of food intolerances may be due to your child’s biological makeup. Some children are naturally unable to tolerate milk. Lactose intolerance is quite common and may cause children to feel gassy, bloated and have diarrhea.
Another problem could be a condition such as celiac disease, which may cause your child to get sick from eating grains like wheat, rye and barley.
While not allergic, these reactions can affect your child’s quality of life and should be managed with help from a physician.
So what is a food allergy? As allergists, we consider a food allergy, in general, to be a reaction that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakes harmless proteins in food as a threat to health. When the immune system goes on attack, as it would with a virus, chemicals released can lead to allergic reactions.
The majority of food allergies in childhood involve one of eight foods
- Tree nuts
Fortunately, many food allergies, such as milk and egg, are outgrown by a child’s fifth birthday. However, peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish tend to be life-long. These foods are also commonly associated with more severe allergic reactions.
Symptoms mild to severe
Most food allergies will occur immediately within minutes to a couple of hours. Skin is the most commonly effected and may include mild itching or hives. At times, some allergic reactions to foods can be severe and even life-threatening.
Severe allergic reactions are called anaphylaxis. The prompt administration of epinephrine may be life-saving in an anaphylactic reaction. To find out more information about food allergies, diagnosis and treatment, visit a qualified allergist today.