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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food Allergies

Food allergies is a pretty big topic.  Most of you are probably acquainted with someone who is severely allergic to peanuts and know that an allergic reaction can result in death.  My discussion is limited to adult food allergies, the symptoms, the most common allergy producing foods, and treatment.  I had an allergic reaction after eating scallops the other day.  I've known for sometime that I'm allergic to shrimp but I've never had a problem with other shellfish.  Fortunately, I just broke out in hives which went away after taking Benedryl.  I'll be avoiding shellfish in the future as I don't want to see if the next reaction is worse.

Shellfish, nuts, fish, eggs and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies in adults.  The symptoms may occur in minutes or within an hour or so of eating.  Symptoms include itching around the mouth, hives all over the body, asthma, difficulty swallowing or breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or most severe, anaphylaxis.  In an anaphylactic reaction, you experience a rapid, severe drop in blood pressure.  Other symptoms are dizziness, tightness in the chest, a rapid pulse, fainting and trouble breathing. 

Food allergies can begin at any time.  I always loved shrimp as a child and it wasn't until my twenties that I finally had a reaction.  I ate shrimp a few more times and finally quit after having the same reaction each time.  I did continue to eat other shellfish without any problems until Tuesday.  About an hour after dinner, welts starting popping up and quickly spread all over.  It itched badly and one eye was swollen.

The treatment is simple; don't eat whatever causes your allergy.  This may mean you have to carefully read all ingredient lists and be careful in restaurants.  Benedryl will help with swelling, hives and itching.  See a doctor or seek help immediately if someone has trouble breathing or swallowing.  Once you've had an anaphylactic reaction, you need to wear a medical ID bracelet and carry an Epipen at all times in case of another episode.

Hopefully, you will never have any food problems but be aware of the symptoms.  I will miss eating shellfish terribly. 

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