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Food allergy is a situation characterized by an inflammatory reaction that is triggered by a substance present in the food, drink or the food additive consumed, which can lead to the appearance of symptoms in different parts of the body such as hands, face, mouth and eyes, and it can also affect the gastrointestinal and respiratory system when the inflammatory reaction is very severe.
In most cases the symptoms of food allergy are mild, with itching and redness of the skin, swelling in the eyes and runny nose, for example, however when the body's reaction is very severe the symptoms can put the life of the person at risk, as there may be a sensation of shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
Thus, it is important to identify the food responsible for the allergy so that its consumption can be avoided and, thus, reduce the risk of complications. However, if you have contact with the food that causes the allergy, the doctor may recommend the use of antihistamines to relieve symptoms and discomfort.
Food allergy symptoms
Symptoms of food allergy can appear up to 2 hours after consumption of the food, drink or food additive responsible for triggering the inflammatory reaction in the body. Symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common being:
- Itchy and red skin;
- Red, swollen patches of skin;
- Swelling of lips, tongue, ears or eyes;
- Stuffy and runny nose;
- Sensation of discomfort in the throat;
- Abdominal pain and excess gas;
- Diarrhea or constipation;
- Burning and burning when defecating.
Although symptoms appear more frequently on the hands, face, eyes, mouth and body, the inflammatory reaction can be so severe that it can affect the gastrointestinal system, and the person may experience nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort, or the respiratory system, resulting in difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, this situation being known as anaphylactic shock, which must be treated immediately to avoid further complications. Learn how to identify anaphylactic shock and what to do.
Thus, to avoid the development of more serious symptoms of food allergy, it is important that as soon as the first symptoms of allergy appear, the person takes the medication indicated by the allergist. In cases where the person feels discomfort in the throat or difficulty breathing, the recommendation is to go to the nearest emergency room or hospital so that the necessary measures are taken to promote the relief of symptoms.
Food allergy can be triggered by any substance present in the food or food additive, being more common in people who have a family history of allergy.
Although it can be caused by any food, food allergy symptoms are in most cases related to the consumption of seafood, peanuts, cow's milk, soy and oilseeds, for example. See more details about the main causes of food allergy.
How the diagnosis is made
The diagnosis of food allergy should be made by the allergist initially by analyzing the symptoms that the person may report after consuming a certain food. However, to confirm the agent causing the allergy, allergy tests on the skin or blood may be indicated.
Usually, when there are no suspicions about what may be causing the allergy, the doctor starts by testing the most allergenic foods such as peanuts, strawberries or shrimp, the diagnosis being made by excluding parts until the responsible food.
The skin allergy test consists of observing the symptoms that appear on the skin after applying different food extracts known to cause allergy, leaving it to act for about 24 to 48 hours. After this time, the doctor will then observe whether the test was positive or negative, noting whether redness, hives, itching or blisters have occurred on the skin.
On the other hand, the blood test consists of collecting a little blood that is analyzed in the laboratory, through which the presence of allergens in the blood is identified, which indicates whether or not there has been an allergy reaction. This blood test is usually done after performing an oral provocation test, which consists of ingesting a small amount of the food that causes allergy, and then observing whether or not allergy symptoms appear.
Food allergy treatment
Treatment for food allergy depends on the severity of the symptoms, which may vary from person to person, but it is usually done with antihistamine drugs such as Allegra or Loratadine or with corticosteroids such as Betamethasone, which serve to relieve and treat allergy symptoms.See how food allergy is treated.
Furthermore, in the most severe cases where there is anaphylactic shock and shortness of breath, treatment is done with an injection of adrenaline, and it may also be necessary to use an oxygen mask to help with breathing.