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Manage Food Allergies

Manage Food Allergies

(NewsUSA): Experts estimate that food allergies have tripled in the U.S. over the past 10 years. While up to 15 percent of Americans believe they have a food allergy, the real number is closer to 8 percent of children and 2 percent of adults with true allergic reactions to food.
Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance
Typically, when someone eats a food to which they are allergic, their immune system reacts in a variety of ways. The greatest danger is anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening, but other reactions include rashes, itching and swelling, hives, wheezing or difficulty breathing. The most common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy products and milk, which can be especially difficult for parents of school-aged children. The list of foods that allergic kids must avoid can be lengthy, requiring some schools to adopt "forbidden foods" rules or establish allergy-free eating zones.
Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerances. People with intolerances may experience digestive issues after eating a problem food, or even behavior changes, but their reactions aren't related to their immune system. For example, an individual with lactose intolerance lacks enzymes needed to digest dairy, so they experience gas, bloating and stomach cramps after drinking milk.
Food Allergy Treatments
Any violent reactions should be immediately addressed by a doctor. Keep a food diary with details of the reaction if you often experience rashes or asthma-like symptoms after meals. Your diary, along with a physical exam and lab tests, will help your doctor identify and treat any food allergies. Self-diagnosing is not a good idea, since unnecessarily eliminating foods can lead to malnutrition and unbalanced diets, especially in children.
Food allergies cannot be cured, but they can be managed effectively. The best course of action is to avoid the food-based allergens, but in the case of milder or unavoidable reactions, doctors can prescribe antihistamines to help manage symptoms or epinephrine to stop severe reactions.
People who have family members with food allergies, or a past history of asthma or diseases that affect the immune system, are most prone to food allergies and should be tested early by a doctor.
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