Common Food Allergies and How to Treat Them
A food allergy is a serious medical condition that occurs when your immune system reacts after eating certain foods. The job of your immune system is to identify and destroy germs, such as viruses or bacteria that make you sick. When your immune system mistakenly reacts to something you eat or drink, it results in a food allergy. Even a small amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger symptoms, some of which may be life-threatening. May is Food Allergy Action Month, so whether you have been recently diagnosed with food allergies or you have a family member with food allergies, this is the ideal time to learn all you can about the most common food allergies and how to treat them.
Common Food Allergies
It's important to know that not only are allergic reactions to food common, but they can also be very dangerous. Other types of allergies are often triggered by either inhaling microscopic protein particles or when the allergens come in contact with your skin. However, a food allergy is triggered when the proteins have been swallowed, making the exposure to the allergy-provoking substance much greater. Almost any food can cause an allergy, but the majority of food allergies are caused by certain foods, including:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts or cashews
Treatment for Food Allergies
The only way to avoid having an allergic reaction to the foods you are allergic to is to avoid these foods. However, even with your best efforts to avoid these foods, you may unknowingly come into contact with food that will cause an allergic reaction. When an allergic reaction occurs, quick treatment is essential:
For Minor Allergic Reactions: prescribed or over-the-counter antihistamines may help to reduce your symptoms. These types of medications are meant to help relieve the hives and/or itching that often accommodates an allergic reaction. They cannot be used as a treatment for a severe allergic reaction.
For Severe Allergic Reactions: you may need to have an emergency injection of epinephrine. Many people with allergies carry an EpiPen (an epinephrine auto-injector). This device consists of a syringe and needle that is used to inject a single dose of the medication into your thigh. If you do not have an EpiPen, it is essential that you go immediately to the closest emergency room or call 9-1-1.
If you have been prescribed an auto-injector, it is important to know how to use the device and to make sure the people that are closest to you know how to administer the medication. You should carry the auto-injector with you at all times and make sure you frequently check the expiration date; if it has expired, it may not work properly.
Coping with a food allergy may be easy while at home, but when you are out, it may be more difficult to monitor what you are eating. When eating out, let your server know that you have an allergy to specific foods and make sure the preparation area is free from contamination of the allergen. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate your needs. If your child has food allergies, it is important to alert the school, school nurse and their teachers of the allergy and written instructions in case of an emergency.
If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, visit your nearest PrimeCare Urgent Care for treatment. Contact us to learn more about your allergies and how to seek relief.