Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat are not just parts of the food pyramid. They represent the top eight food allergens for 90 percent of all documented food allergies. Most adults know if they have a food allergy, and they know that avoiding these foods can reduce their chances of having an allergic reaction. But in severe cases, a food allergy can cause a life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock.
“Anaphylactic shock is a severe reaction involving the entire body that can develop within minutes or even seconds after initial exposure to an allergen,” explains Arun Kumar, MD, family medicine physician with Cy-Fair Medical Partners and a member of the medical staff at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital. “Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, skin rash, low blood pressure, facial swelling, abdominal pain, vomiting, slurred speech, confusion, irregular pulse, fainting, or cough. The condition requires immediate professional medical attention.”
Approximately eight percent of children and two percent of adults, or two million Americans, have food allergies. Children typically outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat by the time they are five years old if they avoid the offending food. However, most people do not outgrow allergic reactions to peanuts, tree nuts, fish or shellfish.
Dr. Kumar offers the following tips for people with known food allergies to decrease their chances of having an allergic reaction:
· Avoid foods that you know can cause an allergic reaction.
· Check for hidden allergens when they are used as ingredients in dishes served in restaurants or other social settings.
· Don’t rely on the menu description when eating out. Ask about how the dish is prepared and specific ingredients.
· Read the food label. Don’t assume ingredients are the same as the last time you bought a product.
· Inform others about your allergy. Wear an identification bracelet and carry a wallet alert card that describes your allergy.
“If you suspect that you have a food allergy, talk with your doctor about being tested and what you can do to prevent complications,” adds Dr. Kumar.
For more information on allergies and to find a physician near you, call 1-800-681-2733.