1.What are the symptoms of a food allergy reaction? If you are allergic to a particular food, you may experience all or some of the following symptoms:
Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain
Hives (welts), itchy rashes
Tightening of the throat, trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing
Sneezing, hoarseness, nasal congestion
Drop in blood pressure, fainting, weak pulse
A food allergic individual may experience a severe form of allergic reaction know as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis includes a wide range of symptoms, can be rapid on onset, and if not treated immediately, can be fatal.
2. How long does it take for an allergic reaction to occur? Most allergic reactions occur within a few minutes, but symptoms may appear up to a few hours after exposure.
3. Will allergic reactions to a particular food always present the same?
You cannot tell how severe your next allergic reaction will be based on the severity of previous reactions.
There are NO available tests that can predict how severe an allergic reaction will be; not by the levels of IgE, or the size of the wheal from a skin prick test (SPT).
Allergic reactions to a particular allergen can vary. Some factors include how much of the allergen was consumed and whether the food was cooked, raw, or processed.
You are more likely to have a severe allergic reaction to food if you also have asthma.
4. What are the risk factors associated with fatal food allergy reactions? Fatal food allergy deaths are rare, but do occur. Significant risk factors associated include:
Delay or absence of administration of epinephrine
Adolescence and young adults
Previous history of anaphylaxis
Peanut or tree nut allergies
Relying on antihistamines (Benadryl, etc.)
Delay in treatment with epinephrine increases the chance for fatality.
5. What does “contact” allergic mean? Allergic skin reactions are common. There are over a hundred different causes to skin reactions and diagnosis can be determined by an evaluation with your doctor. When discussing “contact reactions” in relation to IgE mediated food allergies:
Symptoms of food allergy are rarely induced by skin contact.
Skin symptoms can arise not only after food ingestion, but also after direct skin contact when food allergens enter the skin via the hair follicles, or when the skin barrier is damaged.
Studies show some people can have localized skin symptoms when a food allergen comes in contact with healthy, intact skin. No full body or severe allergic reactions were noted in the studies.
6. What does “airborne” allergic mean? Food proteins can become airborne, and although rare, reactions to airborne proteins do occur; however, the reaction is usually not anaphylaxis. In highly sensitive patients, inhalation of food allergens may produce anaphylaxis. A few examples of airborne reactions may include:
Shellfish or fish proteins becoming aerosolized and released into the air when they are, steamed, boiled, or fried. A severely allergic individual within close proximity to the vapors when released could possibly have a reaction.
Egg powder, soy flour, and wheat particles released into the air. An allergic individual may inhale these particles and could possibly have a reaction.
The grinding or pulverization of peanuts, which can disperse particles in the air. Inhaling peanut protein in this type of situation could cause an allergic reaction.
Food proteins being released into the air from vapors or steam from foods being cooked, or in the occupational setting, i.e., milk, egg, soybean, etc.
7. Are food allergy reactions preventable? The only way to prevent a food allergic reaction from occurring is to avoid the offending allergen. Best practices include:
Reading food labels
Cleaning surfaces hands routinely, and before and after meals/snacks.
Reducing the risk in our homes and classrooms
Eliminating food from the classroom, etc.
Community education and awareness of food allergen avoidance and emergency management
Patient reevaluation as recommended by the patient’s doctor
Understanding emergency treatment plans
Teaching children at a young age to not share foods, etc.
Immunotherapy to food proteins is currently experimental, and reliance on such treatment is not recommended. There are currently no medications available to prevent IgE- or non-IgE-mediated food allergies.
Treating a Food Allergy Reaction
Injectable epinephrine is the treatment of choice in treating severe allergic reactions. Patients who have experienced severe reactions to a food should be educated and provided with two doses of injectable epinephrine to carry at all times.
A food allergic individual must always be prepared to treat an unintentional exposure. Speak with your healthcare professional and develop a plan to protect yourself in case of exposure to the offending food. Best practices include:
Carrying two (2) auto-injection epinephrine devices at all times
Seeking medical help immediately
Carrying an emergency action care plan and following the instructions provided by your doctor
Wearing medical alert jewelry
Content on the Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta (FAKA) Website has been reviewed and approved by FAKA's Medical Advisory Board. The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. Please direct all medical questions and seek the advice of your personal doctor regarding information of a medical nature.
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