Food allergy, in reality, is turning into a universal problem. India is a nation with a diversified food culture and has also obtained its own arrangement of allergens. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases indicates that about 6% of individuals have at least one food allergy. It can affect individuals of all ages yet generally impacts people under 40 years of age, and regardless, its pervasiveness is exceptionally high in adolescents. Food hypersensitivities can roughly lead to 30,000 emergency treatments and 100 to 200 deaths every year. Shockingly, there isn’t a need for more awareness about food hypersensitivity in India. The overall population needs to be made aware of the significance of food in activating allergic reactions, for example, atopic dermatitis, rhinitis or asthma.
How does the immune system react to food allergy?
Food hypersensitivity is an immunological response because of an ingestion of food. The response happens in a few patients when they consume even a minute amount of food they are allergic to. The response can be mild, moderate or severe. However, most food allergic reactions tend not to be mortal, but some can even lead to anaphylaxis and sudden death. There are two types of allergies: immunoglobulin (IgE) mediated and non-IgE mediated. IgE-mediated reactions account for most food allergic reactions, although non-IgE-mediated immune reactions are seen occasionally. IgE-mediated responses include IgE antibodies responsible for an extensive variety of anaphylactic reactions.
Common Signs and Risks of Food Allergy
In India, food allergies still need to be perceived as a major issue since they are considered more easily avoidable. The commonly consumed foods that can cause allergies are fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products, egg and egg products, cereals, peanuts, soybeans, meat and fish, and more. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and unexpectedly affect every individual. Common signs and symptoms include a burning sensation in the lips and mouth, swelling, rashes, itchy skin, wheezing, sickness, diarrhoea, runny nose, and spilling eyes. These were the primary symptoms that the food-allergic patient usually experiences. However, few people can prompt severe food reactions, or we can state “anaphylaxis”. It usually occurs after exposure to a particular allergen; it can also take a couple of hours. Signs and symptoms typically come quickly and exacerbate rapidly. The manifestations of anaphylaxis may incorporate a rapid fall in blood pressure, fear, a sentiment of apprehension, an itchy and tickly throat, nausea, and respiratory issues, which often turn out to be dynamically more terrible. Irritated skin is a rash that may spread quickly and cover other body parts. Other symptoms include sneezing, tachycardia (accelerated heartbeat), rapid swelling of the face and lips, heaving, and loss of consciousness.
Factors Affecting the Risk of Food Allergies
It is believed that individuals who have a family history of food allergies have a multiple times higher risk of having an allergy themselves, contrasted with those with no family history. Individuals experiencing other allergies like asthma or atopic dermatitis have a considerably higher risk of developing food sensitivity than individuals with no other allergies. Babies born by cesarean segment who were given antibiotics during childbirth or in the first year of life and the individuals who had food introduced late following seven months have a higher risk of allergies.
Causes of Food Allergic Reactions
Usually, the one question emerges in everybody’s mind: why do specific individuals experience the ill effects of these allergic reactions? It is believed that changes in dietary patterns might be the reason, yet it could be because of lower consumption of animal fats and higher intake of vegetable fats. It can also be due to the consumption of genetically modified foods, which affects the immune system function during development in utero and as individuals grow or age. People who eat less fresh fruits and leafy vegetables can have food allergies; perhaps a lower antioxidant during adolescence undermines the development of the proper immune system—lower vitamin D intake results in higher allergic reactions.
Tests Required for Diagnosis of Food Allergy
If you suspect a food allergy, go to a specialist who will take your family and medical history, decide which tests to perform (if any) and use this data to determine if it is a food allergy. To diagnose, allergists will ask detailed questions about your medical history and symptoms. They can ask questions like:
- What and how much you ate
- How long it took for symptoms to develop
- What symptoms did you encounter, and how long did they last?
After taking your history, your allergist may request that you get skin prick and blood tests.
Skin-Prick Tests for Food Allergies
Skin-prick tests provide results in around 20 minutes. A liquid containing a small amount of the food allergen is placed on the skin of your arm or back. Your skin is pricked with a small, sterile probe, enabling the liquid to seep under the skin. The test, which isn’t painful yet can be uncomfortable, is viewed as positive if a wheal (looking like the bump from a mosquito bite) develops at the site where the suspected allergen was placed. As a control, you’ll also get a skin prick with a liquid that doesn’t contain the allergen; this should not provoke a response, permitting comparison between the two test sites.
Blood tests measure the IgE antibodies to the food(s) being tested. Results are typically accessible in about a week and are reported as a numerical value.
Diagnostic Procedures for Food Allergies
Your allergist will review the results of these tests to make a diagnosis. A positive outcome does not indicate that there is an allergy. However, a negative outcome helps rule one out. In a few cases, an allergist will prescribe an oral food challenge, viewed as the most precise approach to making a food allergy finding. During an oral food challenge conducted under strict therapeutic supervision, the patient is fed small amounts of the suspected trigger food in increasing doses over an undefined time frame, followed by a few hours of observation to check whether a reaction occurs. This test is practical when the patient’s history is unclear, or the skin or blood tests are uncertain. Because of the likelihood of a severe reaction, an oral food challenge should be conducted only by experienced allergists in a specialist’s office or at a food challenge centre, with emergency medication and equipment on hand.
Treatment Options for Food Allergies
Just in case the individual turns out to be food allergic, they should treat their food allergic responses by :
Elimination of diet: If the individual turns out to be food allergic, they should dispense that specific food from their eating regimen. Elimination may not just mean not eating that particular food; it may also include never inhaling it, touching it, or eating foods with traces inside. Cutlery, crockery, cooking surfaces, and chopping boards must be free of that particular allergen. Patients will also need to read food and drink labels precisely. Indeed, even a few cleansers, pet foods, glues, and adhesives may have traces of a food allergen.
Medication: Allergic responses can be treated by antihistamines and epinephrine. Antihistamines are usually effective for patients with mild or moderate allergies. Antihistamines come as gels, fluids or tablets. Histamines are chemicals that cause most hypersensitivity manifestations, and antihistamines obstruct their effects. Epinephrine can be given to people who have food allergies that may result in anaphylaxis. Epinephrine keeps blood pressure up by constricting blood vessels and, in addition, easing the airways.
Allergen immunotherapy involves exposing individuals to more significant amounts of allergen to change the immune system’s response. The advantages may last a considerable time after treatment is halted. It is generally safe and effective.
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