May 23, 2018

More Food Allergy Myths to Consider

There are many different myths about food allergies. Some of them may even be dangerous for your health or life. Being familiar with these misconceptions can help to prevent life-threatening reactions. It is very important to share these food allergy myths with anyone who is related to allergies.

 

Myth #1: Your allergy can be either mild or severe.

 

Allergies cannot be mild or severe, there are only mild or severe reactions. According to experts, allergic reactions tend to be unpredictable. The same person may experience both mild and severe allergic reactions. For example, you may have had a couple of hives a few times when you ate hazelnuts, but next time exposure to this nut may trigger anaphylaxis – a life-threatening reaction to an allergen that requires immediate medical help. Statistics shows that anaphylactic reactions are getting more and more common compared to previous years.

It’s quite hard to predict allergic reactions, since they are various factors that may contribute to the severity of your body’s response. Thus, being sick, exercising, drinking alcohol, having active asthma or other allergies may increase your risk for a serious reaction.

If you have a known allergy, you are better off being prepared for a severe reaction anyway. This means you should carry two autoinjectors containing epinephrine (adrenaline).

Myth #2: Carrying epinephrine is not necessary if you are not going to eat.

 

This is a common mistake that people with allergies make. If you are not carrying an EpiPen with you, even if you’re not planning to be eating, you are taking a serious risk.

Exposure to allergenic foods is possible anywhere, and you have to be prepared. Experts note that most severe allergic reactions tend to happen when people don’t have their epinephrine auto-injector with them. Make sure to always carry your auto-injector. If you do so, this will become a habit sooner or later. And this might save your life at some point, too.

Myth #3: Epinephrine is dangerous, so it’s better to try an antihistamine first.

 

The risks of taking epinephrine when you don’t need it are dozens of times lower than the risks of waiting too long before taking it. An immediate injection of epinephrine is the only treatment for anaphylaxis. And the earlier in a reaction it is given, the better are the results.

You may wonder when the right time for taking epinephrine is. This is a question you should rather discuss with your own doctor. Usually, experts recommend using the auto-injector as soon as two of your body systems response to an allergen. These could be skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal or cardiovascular systems. For example, if you are vomiting and developing hives, you should take epinephrine immediately.

Other allergists suggest that you should use your auto-injector as soon as you notice any symptoms at all.

Don’t think that taking epinephrine is dangerous. According to specialists, it is absolutely safe, and you are better off taking it than waiting too long.

Myth #4: Only children can develop new food allergies.

 

It is true that children are more prone to food allergies, but they can actually occur at any age.

According to a study published in 2017, about 45 percent of adults with food allergies developed them after they turned 18. This study suggests that the most common food allergies in adults are allergies to shellfish and tree nuts.

In case you notice any allergy symptoms after eating a certain food, make sure to visit an allergist as soon as possible. The doctor can perform allergy testing and prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g. EpiPen). If you are prescribed one, you should carry it with you, wherever you go.

You may also develop an oral allergy syndrome at some point in your life. It may cause your mouth to itch after you eat an apple or other fresh fruit or vegetable. This condition is associated with pollen allergy, and it’s mostly triggered by certain fruits and veggies. Usually, the symptoms are limited to the mouth area, and they almost never result in anaphylaxis. Eating these fruits and vegetable cooked can prevent an allergic reaction.

Myth #5: Allergies to peanuts and tree nuts can’t be outgrown.

 

Children allergic to milk or eggs may be more likely to outgrow their allergies than children with nut allergies. However, outgrowing an allergy to peanut or tree nuts is still possible. According to statistics, about 20 percent of kids with peanut allergies and up to 20 percent of kids allergic to tree nuts tend to outgrow their allergies.

If you have a food allergy, your allergist may want you to be tested every year. If you doctor sees that your allergy is going away, he may suggest that you perform a food challenge. A food challenge is performed in the allergist’s office or at a hospital. It involves eating the trigger food in increasing amounts under the monitoring of a medical team. The challenge lasts for 24 hours. If you don’t develop any symptoms within this time, you will likely be able to reintroduce this food to your diet.

Myth #6: The severity of your reactions can be determined by blood testing.

 

Allergy blood tests help to identify the levels of immunoglobulin E antibodies in your blood when you are exposed to an allergen. Some people think that the higher these levels are, the more severe is the reaction. However, it’s not necessarily so. This test only helps to determine whether or not you are allergic to a food.

Blood tests are usually combined with skin prick tests. Skin prick testing involves inserting a needle containing diluted allergen under the surface if your skin. If you develop a hive at the affected site of the skin, you have an allergy.

Allergy tests are not always 100 percent accurate. Therefore, they are recommended for confirming suspected allergies, but not for searching for allergic sensitivities.

Myth #7: If you feel bad or tired after eating, you are most likely allergic to a food.

 

Food allergy is your immune system’s overreaction to proteins found in food. This condition causes specific symptoms that include: skin rash, hives, itchy or swollen mouth, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, or difficulty breathing. If you develop some random symptoms like tiredness, it’s not likely to be a food allergy.

These symptoms, however, can indicate something different. For example, if you have headaches after drinking red wine or eating aged cheese, you might be prone to migraines. People with celiac disease may also develop unpleasant symptoms after eating wheat, rye, barley or other products containing gluten. Food intolerances (e.g. to gluten or lactose) are common, as well. If you think that some food is making you feel bad, experts recommend that you keep a food diary and then arrange a visit to your doctor.

Myth #8: If your child has a peanut allergy, you should start feeding them peanuts.

 

This myth is mistakenly based on the LEAP (Learn Early about Peanut Allergy) study that found that exposure to peanut decreased rates of peanut allergy by over 70 percent. However, this study was talking about prevention, but not treatment. If your child is diagnosed with a peanut allergy, you should never in their life feed them a peanut.

Researchers found that introducing peanuts earlier may prevent an allergy to peanuts in children who are at high risk for this allergy. The factors increasing the risk for a peanut allergy include having an egg allergy or moderate to severe eczema. If your kid falls into the high-risk group, he or she should be tested for an allergy to peanuts. If they don’t have an allergy yet, you can introduce peanuts into your child’s diet starting at four to six months of age.

Myth #9: Allergists give peanuts to allergic kids.

 

This is not completely true. Some allergists treat peanut allergies in kids by exposing them to microscopic amount of peanut proteins. The dosage is increased gradually over a period of several years until the maintenance dose is achieved. This is believed to change the way the immune system reacts to peanuts and prevent a severe reaction.

Myth #10: Reactions to airborne peanut particles are common.

 

The chances of developing anaphylaxis to peanuts after casual contact or inhalation are low. Peanut protein is not airborne; therefore, airborne reactions are very rare. As long as you are not directly exposed to peanut particles, you should be OK.

In some cases, people may develop mild reactions like itchy eyes or nasal congestion, if they are sitting close to someone eating peanuts.

Myth #11: Food allergy symptoms always occur a few minutes after you eat a trigger food.

 

Sometimes, the symptoms occur within minutes of eating a food, but it may also take up to several hours for the reaction to occur.

Allergic reactions to meat usually take longer – about six to eight hours. This condition is known as Alpha-Gal allergy.

Some people may develop a bi-phasic reaction, which is a second wave of anaphylaxis that occurs hours or days after the initial wave cleared up. Children are more susceptible to bi-phasic reactions; and so are people who require two or more doses of epinephrine and those who didn’t use epinephrine properly.

Myth #12: Food manufacturers are obliged to provide to full list of ingredients on food labels.

 

In fact, the Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Law only requires companies to state on the ingredients label if the food contains any of the 8 most common food allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish). The exact type of tree nut, fish or shellfish should also be mentioned. According to researchers, up to 90 percent of food allergies are associated with these eight allergens.

However, there are many of those who are allergic to other foods. In this case, avoiding the allergen gets more challenging. Many food allergens can be hidden in the ingredients list under the terms like “spices” and “natural flavorings”. If you are hesitating about a certain food product, you can contact the manufacturer and ask them to provide the allergy information.

Myth #13: Food manufacturers are obliged to state if their products might potentially contain traces of top food allergens.

 

Some companies may include information concerning potential cross-contamination on their labels, but it’s absolutely voluntary and not necessary. You may have seen warnings like: “may contain traces of peanuts”, “made in factory with eggs”, or “made on shared equipment with soy”. However, this doesn’t mean that all food manufacturers provide this information on the food labels. Therefore, it is always better to contact a company and ask all the questions you are worried about.

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