Having an allergy to a food is a serious problem that needs to be discussed with an allergist. An allergist can assure proper diagnosis, education and information on avoidance of the food, and give patients an emergency plan. Foods have been blamed for many complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea, and fatigue. True food allergies are generally life threatening, may cause hives and itching of the skin, swelling of the lips and tongue, low blood pressure, and difficulty breathing. Some people that complain of food allergies do not suffer a near-fatal reaction, but instead suffer what is called non-allergic food hypersensitivity. These reactions range from upset stomach and diarrhea to GI cramping, as seen in lactose intolerance.
Once a food allergy has been diagnosed, avoidance is very important. Exposure to a food can come from eating, skin contact, or even inhaling the food in the air through the cooking process. A very small quantity can be dangerous and life threatening. Unintentional ingestion is common and in one study, accidentally eating a peanut product occurs in 55% of peanut-allergic children during a 5 year period. Every peanut allergic patient averages two unintentional ingestions in their life. Reading labels and always asking questions about the food you are about to eat is very tiring, but very important.
One interesting problem is the Oral Allergy Syndrome. This refers to itching, tingling, and even swelling of the lips and tongue, without subsequent development of anaphylaxis. This is seen in some individuals with an allergy to ragweed and may happen when they eat watermelon, honeydew, mango, avocado or bananas. Patients with grass pollen allergy may have oral allergy symptoms if they eat tomatoes. Patients with a birch pollen allergy may experience oral allergy symptoms if they eat carrots, potatoes, celery, apples, peaches, pears, hazelnut or kiwi.
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