“Please don’t serve me prawns. I am allergic to it.”

“I can’t go to the fair. I am allergic to dust.”

Is that you? If yes, know that you’re not alone. Allergies are common. Allergies are the body’s immune responses to a harmless foreign substance. It is an immune response that, under ideal circumstances, should never happen. The foreign substances that elicit an allergic response are known as allergens. When these allergens enter the body, the body assumes them as potentially harmful (even if they are not) and makes antibodies against these allergens. While some allergies are common, some are very rare.

What are common allergies?

Allergies can be caused by a wide variety of “allergens.” When an allergic response occurs, it may manifest as different symptoms. Some of the common allergies are caused by:

  • Pollens
  • Animal dander
  • Dust mites
  • Medicines
  • Latex
  • Mold
  • Some kinds of food
  • Household chemicals

What are rare allergies?

While the above mentioned list includes common allergies that affect a majority of sufferers, there are some allergens that rarely cause allergies in a small number of people. Some of the rarest allergies include:

  • Seminal plasma hypersensitivity
  • Aquagenic urticaria
  • Polymorphic light eruption
  • Cholinergic urticaria
  • Axillary dermatitis
  • Vibratory urticaria

What is a food allergy?

Among all the allergies, food allergy is one of the most common. Data reveals that 32 million Americans live with potentially life-threating food allergies and every three minutes a person needs to visit the emergency room for a food allergy-related complication.

A food allergy happens when the body’s immune system attacks the harmless proteins in your food identifying them as allergens or harmful foreign agents although they are not. As a result of this allergic reaction, the body releases potent chemicals called histamines that cause different responses – vomiting, diarrhea, hives, eczema, swelling of the lips and tongue, wheezing, coughing, etc.

Food allergies can be mild or severe depending upon the allergic reaction. Remember, food allergy is not similar to food intolerance or food poisonings although the symptoms can be similar. Food poisoning or food intolerance is usually not life-threatening, whereas food allergy can be, if it is severe. Food allergy is always an immune reaction of the body to a food substance. 

What foods cause allergies?

Food allergy can happen from any food sources depending upon how your body reacts to it. The FDA passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in 2004 that requires food manufacturers to label if their products contain any of these eight allergens which are identified as most common food allergens. These include milk, egg, fish, soybeans, wheat, peanut, tree nut, shellfish.

However, some people are allergic to some rare food allergens like red meat, sesame seeds, avocados, marshmallows, corn, mango, dried fruits, and hot dogs.

How to diagnose food allergies?

Certain testing is conducted to identify food allergies. Some of the common diagnostic tests include allergy skin prick tests and a blood test that measures the IgE antibodies which are produced by the body’s immune system against specific allergens. Sometimes, you might have to eat a small amount of a particular food to determine if you are having an allergic reaction. This is strictly done under medical supervision. 

Does food allergy go away?

Young children who develop a food allergy to certain food types like eggs and nuts usually outgrow them. Studies say that 20 percent of young children outgrow peanut allergies while 10 percent outgrow tree nut allergies. 

If you suspect a food allergy, consult a doctor immediately than to try self-diagnosing. The mild itching or swelling can turn ugly and in severe cases can be life-threatening too. Your doctor can recommend medications and treat severe symptoms with epinephrine injections.

However, there is no permanent cure for allergies and staying away from allergens is the best way to avoid an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to food, you need to identify the food allergen. Once your food allergen has been identified, you need to keep note of what you eat and when. This will help you keep track of your food habits and any symptoms you might have experienced. This will help you avoid the food allergens in the foods you eat.