“Food allergy is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition affecting up to 15 million Americans. One in every 13 children has a food allergy—that’s about 2 in every U.S. classroom. And every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room.” – Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)
What are Food Allergies?
A Food allergy is a reaction caused by the body in response to a certain food ingested. Food allergies can occur with any food and at any age. A person can be allergic to multiple foods at the same time.
Our immune system (the system that takes care of identifying the germs – bacteria & viruses – and destroying them), sometimes overreacts to the food proteins called Allergens, and cause an allergic reaction.
The reaction usually happens within minutes of eating the food in question. It can vary from mild to severe and can even be fatal sometimes, if not taken care of immediately. The severe reaction is called Anaphylaxis.
Common Food Allergens
While reaction can occur to any food, the most common ones that people are allergic to are:
- Nuts (peanuts being the most common)
- Wheat/gluten (do not confuse with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, these are different from the allergy)
Here are Six simple substitutes to food ingredients if you have food allergies.
I have two kids and both have food allergies. They are allergic to several of the above mentioned food items plus some more unique ones like vinegar and red lentils.
The first time I encountered an allergy due to a food, was when I introduced my daughter to boiled chicken, she was six months old at the time and had started solid foods. She reacted very badly to it on the fifth day.
She was a very cranky kid since birth because she had severe eczema. So when she started to cry uncontrollably, me and my husband just attributed it to her being her usual self. My husband offered to take here out of the apartment and walk around for a bit, to give me a break. He put her in the stroller and went down to the basement; he didn’t take her outside as it was winter and very cold in Canada, to walk her around.
You may also like:
After a while I went down to check on them. What I saw was a quiet baby but with her lips and eyes swollen as if a bee had stung her. I ran upstairs and called Telehealth Ontario (a phone service that gives out medical advice and is run by nurses). I described the symptoms, the nurse said I need to drop the call and dial 911.
We ended up at the hospital for observation and she was diagnosed with an allergic reaction. It was heart stopping moment knowing that this could have been a fatal reaction. Since then, whenever I introduced her to a new food, I use to be on edge, whether she was going to react or not? If she does react, is it going to be severe or not?
She is allergic to almost all of the most common eight allergens and as time has gone by we discovered more. However, the good news is that she has outgrown her chicken and soy allergies and eats both items regularly without any reaction.
Signs that Indicate an Allergic Reaction
Allergic reactions can happen within minutes or can take up to a few hours to show. All allergic reactions are potentially serious. The signs can be divided into two categories, Mild and Severe.
- Eczema worsens – more itchy
- Pains/cramps in stomach
- Runny nose
- Odd taste in mouth
- Swelling of mouth and eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Itchiness of throat
- Feeling dizzy
- Color turns pale
Severe symptoms can be sign of an anaphylaxis and require immediate treatment or they can be fatal.
- If the symptoms are mild, an antihistamine, for example Benadryl Allergy, can be given to control the symptoms.
- If the condition worsens or you think they are severe than the best course of action is to inject Epinephrine (Epi-pen for short), and call 911 immediately.
While older kids are able to describe what they are experiencing quite well, but an allergic reaction in a baby is much more stressful. You can see the physical signs but you cannot know what they are experiencing internally. Best course of action in this case is to call 911 immediately.
After the first reaction, usually you have to setup an appointment with your child’s doctor, who then works out the emergency treatment plan with you.
My advice to first time parents, if you have previously experienced an allergic reaction to a certain food, do not be fearful of introducing other new foods, since it may lead to malnutrition if you are overly cautious. However, be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms that indicate that something is not right.
If you encounter any of the above mentioned symptoms, even if mild, for the first time, do not hesitate to contact 911.
Leave a comment below on how you felt and what you did for the first time you experienced any of the above or if you have experienced any other symptoms.