Food allergies have become increasingly common in recent years, but how do you know if you've got one?
More people appear to be developing food allergies with 2% of UK adults and between 6-8% of children being diagnosed. Since 1990, UK hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have increased by 700%, and admissions for food allergies have risen by 500%.
A food allergy develops when the body mistakenly makes an antibody to combat a specific food. When that food is next eaten (or even just comes in contact with the skin) it can trigger an immune system response which causes histamine or other substances to be released into the body. The symptoms of this can include:
- abdominal pain
- vomiting and diarrhoea
- itchy or swelling skin
- runny nose or sneezing
- wheeze or cough
- in serious cases anaphylaxis occurs (common with peanut allergies)
Normally, symptoms such as the above will arise within minutes of eating the offending food, but it could take a couple of hours. If you notice symptoms, you should consult your doctor as there are reliable blood and skin tests that can show quite accurately the absence or presence of a food allergy.
The most common foods which cause allergies are:
- nuts (including peanuts)
- shellfish and fish
- some fruits such as citrus or kiwi fruit
If you find that you do indeed have an allergy, it is crucial to avoid eating that food all together. In the case of nuts especially, it is important to avoid eating foods that may have come in contact with nuts at any point (which often rules out many foods eaten in restaurants).
If you are found to have a severe allergy it's also vital to keep appropriate emergency supplies with you at all times. These can be adrenaline (to be injected), antihistamines or steroids, or sometimes a combination of them all.
For more information about food and other allergies check out the Allergy UK website or call their help line on 01322 619 898 for info and advice