Understanding the Top 8 Food Allergies

Food allergies have become an important topic in recent years for a multitude of reasons. Their incidence has been on the rise, affecting 30% of adults and 40% of children. People can be allergic to just about anything but there are 8 allergens which are most common.

What is an allergy?

When your body is exposed to an irritant (known as an allergen), such as pollen, it launches an attack against it. Most of the time when this happens, we don’t even notice it. Sometimes, if there’s an overabundance of the allergen or your body is especially sensitive to it, this immune response shifts into overdrive. Your eyes water, your nosy gets stuffy, or you break out in an itchy rash. Some allergens cause life-threatening reactions, such as anaphylaxis, which leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure and a narrowing of breathing airways.

Foods can also act as allergens. When someone is allergic to a food, they can’t eat it at all. Some allergies are so severe that people can’t even be near the irritant, as breathing it in or touching it could cause anaphylaxis. An allergy is different than a food sensitivity or intolerance. Intolerances, such as the inability to digest milk (lactose intolerance) are not typically life-threatening, although they will cause discomfort, such as bloating and diarrhea, if ingested.

The Big 8

The Big 8 are the cause of 90% of recorded allergies and labeling is required by the FDA to warn consumers of their presence or possible presence in foods.

1. Peanuts: Peanuts are actually legumes, which as a group are responsible for a large number of allergic reactions. People allergic to peanuts are not likely to be allergic to other legumes, such as lentils. Children are more likely to develop a peanut allergy if they already have an egg allergy.

2. Shellfish: Shellfish can also cause severe allergic reactions. Crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crabs) are the most common, although some allergic reaction may occur with mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters). Shrimp is considered the most allergenic.

3. Fish: Pollock, salmon, cod, tuna, mackerel, and snapper are among the fish which commonly trigger fish allergies. The allergen in this group is the fish muscle protein parvalbumin. These allergies are often developed during adulthood and are less likely to be outgrown.

4. Milk: Milk allergy is the most common allergy in infants and young children. A milk allergy causes an immune response to the proteins in milk. All milks, including those from cows, goats, and sheep can pose a problem. Most children outgrow their milk allergy.

5. Eggs: Also common in children, both the yolk and the whites of eggs can trigger a reaction, but in some cases the egg yolk is less allergenic. Eggs are not only used in foods, but also in skincare products and cosmetics which contain eggs. Most children will outgrow their egg allergy.

6. Soy: Also in the legume family, soy is an allergy that kids are likely to outgrow. Here in the United States, soy is most often found in processed foods, either as soybean oil or soy protein isolate. People with soy allergies may be able to have soy lecithin without issue.

7. Wheat: Wheat allergies are fairly common and typically resolve during childhood. A wheat allergy is different than Celiac disease, where gluten causes the inflammatory reaction. Celiac disease launches a different immune response than other allergens. Actual wheat allergies are uncommon in adults.

8. Tree nuts: One of the most potent and common allergens, tree nut allergies affect 1.1% of the world’s population. Those affected by the tree nut allergy should avoid macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts. The reactions associated with tree nuts are often severe, with walnuts and cashews causing the most reactions. At least 90% of children that have a tree nut allergy will not outgrow it.

In Conclusion

Accuracy in food labeling is critical for people with allergies, but it’s not as easy to be sure when dining out. Don’t be afraid to ask your server or the chef what’s in the dishes, including any allergens the foods may have come in contact with. It’s in your best interest to enjoy your meal safely!

Manage Allergies In College – 5 Ways To Minimize Allergy Woes

College dorms and apartments can be filled with airborne particulates and odors that can send your allergies into overdrive. Here are 5 ways to successfully manage your allergies and keep symptoms to a minimum.

Live Alone—Granted, this is easier said than done possibly because of financial reasons on your end and the way many colleges assign rooms. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And since this is a request that will effect your health, nothing beats a failure but a try. And who knows, the answer may very well be yes. You will have the most control over who and what comes into your space if you’re the only one in it.

If you wind up with a roommate after all, ask for their help, and let them know what things will trigger you symptoms. Unless you get someone who is really seriously not nice, most people are likely to refrain from using products that knowingly cause you problems.

Stay Prepared—Always carry a fast-acting medication that can temporarily stop symptoms from escalating. Many local pharmacies have done us a great service by employing pharmacists that are knowledgeable and more than willing to suggest medications off the shelf that can really improve your day-to-day quality of life.

Be sure to check to see if drowsiness is a side effect. And if it is, choose the times that you take it very carefully, as in not right before class, or a performance, or when you intend to drive.

Figure out which medication works best for you. Then keep extras in your car, overnight bag, purse, back pack and cosmetic case. Make it easy to get to at the first sign of symptoms that could get out of hand.

Stay Tuned In To Weather Conditions—If your allergies are triggered by pollen and other outdoor pollutants, staying up to date about the level of irritants in the air is crucial.

There are websites that gives the pollen count by zip code, and local news and radio will also have information about the air quality to expect for the day.

Staying inside to avoid the trigger on days when the allergens are off the chart may seem punitive at first. But when comparing it to the alternative of possibly suffering symptoms that can range from irritating to debilitating, avoidance looks pretty good.

Limit Air Exchange—Opening the windows to let some fresh air in can be quite a misconception. Exchange of outdoor air with indoor air is just that—an exchange, and not necessarily a healthy improvement. Often it simply means exchanging air with one set of pollutants for a different set.

Leave windows closed in the dorm, and keep the vents and windows rolled up in the car, particularly during peak seasons for you.

Filter The Air—Use a portable air cleaner that contains a HEPA or high efficiency particle arresting filter. This is the most efficient at removing the particles that often trigger allergies.

This filter can remove 99,997 out of every 10,000 airborne particles that are.3 microns or larger. Some of these particles include dust, dust mites, mold and mildew spores, pollen, bacteria, and viruses.

24 hours filtration is so important in this situation so don’t settle for a unit that cannot provide this. Also look for little to zero maintenance requirements. Avoid those that produce any amount of ozone or ionized particles and studies differ about how safe and effective they really are.

How to Help a Dog Suffering With Skin Allergies

All dogs scratch occasionally, but if your dog seems to scratch constantly, it may be a sign that he is suffering with some type of allergy. Some of these conditions may be easily cured, but dogs with pollen or environmental allergies may require treatment throughout their lives.

Skin inflammation is common for dogs with allergies and may cause them to scratch, lick, chew or rub their faces obsessively. In order to bring the misery under control, the owner must be committed to prompt attention to skin flare-ups, effective parasite control and certain simple home strategies. Here are some ways to get started.

  • Control fleas. Your dog’s veterinarian will be able to provide the most effective treatment for your pet. Sometimes this may involve a flea problem within your home. If so, the vet should be able to recommend useful treatments or you may need to engage a professional insect/pest control service.
  • Bathe your dog. Oftentimes a cool bath with an oatmeal shampoo will give your dog some relief. You should be able to do this up to twice a week. If the skin irritation is more severe, the veterinarian might prescribe an antibiotic shampoo for you to use.
  • Clothing for your dog. This might sound strange, but a close-fitting t-shirt or bodysuit made out of a light fabric can keep the allergens that are irritating your dog away from his skin. It will also help prevent your dog from gnawing or biting an irritation and turning it into a full-blown open wound.
  • Food for your dog. If your dog has a food allergy, you can work with the veterinarian to find a specialty pet food or even a home-prepared diet that will help relieve the symptoms.

Don’t hesitate to take action now. If your dog is experiencing symptoms of allergies, he is probably miserable. Since he is a member of the family, you will want to give him some relief as soon as possible.