Have you ever had an allergic reaction to something you ate?
If you were lucky, it was a mild reaction with symptoms like itchy eyes and throat, hives, or cramping.
Unfortunately, some people have allergies so severe they produce a reaction called anaphylaxis. This can cause your body to go into shock, blood pressure to drop, airway to constrict, tongue to swell and hives to appear. Without quick attention, anaphylaxis can be fatal.
A food allergy is a medical condition that occurs when a person's immune system mistakes food for a threat and releases chemicals to try to protect the body from the invading allergen.
At least 15 million Americans – that's 5% of the population – suffer from food allergies. For these people, everyday foods such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, omelets or ice cream cones can be deadly.
There are more than 100 known food allergens, but some foods are more likely to cause allergic reactions than others. The top allergens in the US and Canada include:
Scientists have been trying to discover a cure for food allergies for decades, and research is looking hopeful!
Recent studies have shown that it's possible to desensitize someone to a food allergy. By giving a person very small amounts of the food in question and increasing the dose over time, their body becomes used to it and no longer reacts. This is a long-term process. A person would have to continue consuming doses of the allergen for the rest of their life to maintain tolerance. Other research is looking for a long-term solution without the need for continued treatment.
For now, the only way to stay safe and prevent a reaction is to avoid the allergen.
For more facts and information about food allergies, visit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).