Written By Mikkie Mills / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Food allergies as a whole affect about four to six percent of the American population. That's about 50 million people dealing with food allergy diagnosis. Here are six things you should know about food allergies.
1. Research What Foods Are Safe
Getting diagnosed with a food allergy can be overwhelming and it can seem impossible to figure out what foods you can and can't eat. However, it's vital to your health and wellbeing that you do so.
You can ask your doctor for resources on dietary changes people with your food allergy have made. For example, if you or your child has celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, you'll need to ask questions like are oats gluten free to make sure the foods you're eating are safe for you. Talk to a dietician and search for resources online so you can develop the best diet plan for you.
2. Be Careful about Related Foods
It's highly likely you'll be dealing with your food allergy for the rest of your life, and in some cases, similar foods to your allergic trigger can also cause a reaction. You'll need to be very careful about the foods you buy and eat in case those foods have been produced in proximity to or are related to your trigger food.
Carefully check packaging for warnings about products made in factories where nuts, dairy, wheat, soy and shellfish are also processed. When you go out to eat, let the restaurant know about your allergy. If you're allergic to peanuts, avoid other types of nuts.
3. Watch out for Symptoms
Symptoms will vary depending on the type of allergy you have and its severity. Common symptoms include hives, trouble breathing, gastrointestinal issues, dizziness and swelling of the throat and tongue, among others.
A severe allergic reaction may result in symptoms within minutes of eating something, but reactions can also take as long as one to two hours to develop. Even if you're as careful as possible with your food, a reaction can be triggered unexpectedly, so it's important you be aware of your specific symptoms and be on the lookout for them so you can be prepared to deal with a reaction.
4. See an Allergist
If you suspect you have a food allergy or have already had a reaction, you should see an allergist, a doctor who specializes in treating and managing allergies. Allergies affect everyone differently, so your allergist will work with you to determine the severity of your allergy, perform tests for any other allergic reactions and help you develop a management and treatment plan.
5. Understand Any Medications You're Prescribed
While the best way to manage your allergy is to be careful about the foods you buy and consume, there are certain medications your allergist may prescribe to help you manage your allergy or to use in case of emergency.
For mild symptoms, such as itching or hives, you may be able to take an antihistamine allergy medication, for example. Epinephrine auto-injectors are prescribed for use in case of a severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis, and can save your life, so you need to understand how they work and how to use them.
6. Prepare To Deal With Anaphylaxis
Allergic reactions can be unpredictable, and anaphylaxis is a real risk when you have a food allergy, even if you've only ever had mild symptoms before. For this reason, you need to be prepared to deal with anaphylaxis.
Learn to recognize the signs, including a sharp drop of blood pressure and difficulty breathing. Practice using your epinephrine auto-injector so you can react swiftly and teach your friends and family how to use it in case you're unable to during a reaction.
Food allergies can cause mild, moderate and severe reactions without warning and can be triggered by a variety of foods. It's essential you get a formal diagnosis and discuss your food allergy with your doctor and any other healthcare providers you see to ensure you get the best treatment for your needs and mitigate your exposure to your trigger foods.
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Mikkie Mills is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is also a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on interior design, budgeting hacks and DIY. When she's not writing, she's chasing the little ones around, walking her dog, or can be found rock climbing at the local climbing gym.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.