About 20 million Americans have food allergies. If you have experienced puzzling physical symptoms and want to know if you are allergic to certain foods, it may be time to visit an experienced allergy specialist. This physician will diagnose and treat your symptoms and give you excellent advice on living well with this common immunological problem.
What Are The Symptoms of Food Allergies?
Food allergies cause a wide range of symptoms which can be mild, moderate, or severe and life-threatening (anaphylactic). For the most part, people with food allergies will experience gastrointestinal upset and pain, such as vomiting or diarrhea, after consuming an allergen. However, other common symptoms are:
- Itching and tingling in and around the mouth
- Hives and eczema
Anaphylactic reactions resemble shock with loss of consciousness, airway swelling, shortness of breath and more. This severe cluster of food allergy symptoms requires transport to a hospital ER and treatment with an injectable epinephrine medication, like an EpiPen, which counters the symptoms quickly.
How Does an Allergist Diagnose Food Allergies?
An in-office medical history, review of symptoms and physical examination help your allergy specialist determine if you are a candidate for allergy testing. Allergy tests are done in a few closely monitored ways:
- Skin prick tests – these introduce tiny amounts of possible allergens under the skin
- Blood tests – used to look for the presence of certain antibodies particular to food allergies
- Challenge tests – this involves consuming a small amount of a suspect food, and the provider monitors reactions to it
Once the allergy specialist has clearly identified food allergies, they can develop a plan of treatment tailored to the individual.
Treating and Living with Allergies
Allergy treatment is vital for those being affected by allergy symptoms. Once you participate in a regular plan of care, you will feel better and also avoid the body-wide inflammation commonly associated with untreated allergies.
Treatment can take a few different forms, including:
- Over the counter nasal antihistamine sprays, oral meds and topical ointments and creams
- Immunotherapy, customized allergy shots which desensitize you to your allergy triggers
- Saline nasal irrigation or sprays to flush out allergens (especially important for upper respiratory allergies)
- Taking probiotics, supplements which increase healthy intestinal bacteria
- Knowing your allergic triggers and avoiding them
Common food allergies include milk, fish, soy, sesame seeds and oil, wheat, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and others. Take your food allergies seriously, and be sure to tell your friends, relatives, and coworkers about them as well.
Avoiding allergic triggers can take some thought and a fair amount of discipline to change lifelong habits. For instance, you should read all packaged food labels to watch for ingredients that can trigger your allergy symptoms. It is also essential to avoid cross contamination of food preparation surfaces at home and at restaurants. That means asking your server how your meal will be prepared and avoiding certain venues, such as fast-food outlets, altogether.
Finally, living well with your food allergies means consuming a healthy diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drinking a lot of water throughout the day to flush out any small amounts of allergens.
Allergist in Georgetown, TX
At Georgetown ENT, our board-certified otolaryngologist and fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy is Dr. Scott William Franklin. Dr. Franklin and his team will help you learn more about food allergies and how you can manage them for a healthier, happier life.