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What is Food Allergy

Wong Shu Lee  


  July 21, 2021

Nowadays, food allergies are affecting more people than before. We have heard and seen more people are having some sort of allergies towards different food ingredients. Today, let’s take a few minutes to understand more about food allergies. 


A food allergy is when the body's immune system reacts abnormally to specific foods. Symptoms of allergic reaction to a specific food may range from sneezing and nasal congestion to anaphylaxis.


These symptoms can affect different areas of the body at the same time. Some common symptoms include: 


  • an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat, or ears
  • a raised itchy red rash (urticaria, or "hives")
  • swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth (angioedema)
  • vomiting


In the most serious cases, a person might have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis are: 


  • breathing difficulties
  • trouble swallowing or speaking
  • feeling dizzy or faint


Ask for an ambulance and tell the operator you think the person is having a severe allergic reaction.


What causes food allergies?


Food allergies happen when the immune system – the body's defense against infection – mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat.


As a result, a number of chemicals are released. It's these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.


Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are certain foods that are responsible for most food allergies. Some of the common food allergens are: 


  • milk
  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • some fruit and vegetables


Most children that have a food allergy will have experienced eczema during infancy. The worse the child's eczema and the earlier it started, the more likely they are to have a food allergy. 


Can Food Allergies Be Cured? 


There is currently no cure for food allergies. Thus, identifying and avoiding the food to which you are allergic is the only way to prevent a reaction. 


You can avoid food allergens by reading the food labels carefully before purchasing them. Food allergens are identified on food labels in one of three ways:


  1. Ingredient name. For example, the allergen name “milk” may be included in the ingredient name “buttermilk.”
  2. Following the ingredient name. The food allergen may appear after the ingredient, such as “whey (milk),” “lecithin (soy),” and “flour (wheat).”
  3. After the ingredients list. A “contains” statement may appear next to the list of ingredients, such as “contains milk, soy, and wheat.”


Some food products also Include warning labels such as “may be prepared in a facility that also uses nuts” or “may contain trace amounts of nuts”. 


Always be cautious when buying products without labels — such as a cake from a pastry shop. To be safe, you can always ask the shop owners about the ingredients to avoid food that may cause allergic reactions on you. 


If you have a life-threatening food allergy, it is recommended that everyone you come into contact with knows what to do during an allergic reaction. Prepare an anaphylaxis emergency action plan to tell your family, friends, co-workers, school staff, or caregivers what to do if you have a severe allergic reaction. 


Stay safe, stay healthy! 


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