Allergies affect over 50 million people Americans. But, even though they’re common, that doesn’t mean the bad experience you had after eating that pasta salad at lunch was due to an allergy.
Our team of specialists at Advanced Allergy & Asthma in Ogden, Utah, offered these distinctions about food allergies and what to watch out for.
Intolerance versus allergy
If you ever have a physical reaction to a certain food, you’re not alone. However, these symptoms usually occur because of an intolerance, not an allergy.
When you have a food intolerance, your digestive system responds to something you ate because your body can’t process it. For example, someone with lactose intolerance has problems digesting dairy because they lack the enzyme needed to break it down.
Other causes of food intolerance include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Sensitivity to food additives
- Recurring stress or psychological contributors
Plus, because intolerances have to do with your digestion, they often cause uncomfortable gastric symptoms, like bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping, constipation, or nausea. There’s no question that these reactions can impact your quality of life. However, you can still consume the item without risking serious complications.
Unlike food intolerance, an allergy involves your immune system, which can lead to life-threatening symptoms.
Signs of a food allergy
People of all ages develop food allergies, but they’re most common in babies and children. Your symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they can even involve whole-body reactions that impact heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.
Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the tongue
- Wheezing, shortness of breath, or coughing
- Stomach cramps or vomiting
- Dizziness or faintness
- Blue or pale skin
- Weak pulse
In most cases, these symptoms occur within minutes of eating a specific item. Less often, a reaction can occur two to six hours later or longer.
Foods that trigger reactions
The other thing food allergies have in common is that 90% of reactions come from eight specific items, including:
- Tree nuts
When you have an allergy involving food, you should avoid consuming the item that triggers your reaction. And, depending on the severity of your allergy, you may need to carry self-injectable epinephrine in case you accidentally ingest them.
Fortunately, we can perform allergy testing to determine if you have a food allergy safely. Having a diagnosis can help you learn how to adjust your lifestyle, avoid your triggers, and get a plan in place to manage a reaction.
Do you think you have a food allergy? Contact one of our offices in Ogden to schedule a consultation today.