4 steps to take if you suspect a food allergy
Step 1: See a doctor
It’s critically important to confirm your suspicions with a doctor who specializes in allergies. Identifying exactly what you are allergic to and getting nutritional counseling on how to avoid it could save your life.
Your doctor should start with a detailed medical history and physical examination. You might also be asked to record everything you eat as well as any symptoms you experience. If you tested positive for allergies years ago, it’s time for a recheck. Your allergy might have subsided or you might have received an incorrect diagnosis because outdated testing methods were used. A lot of time we’re able to help people put foods back in their diet, says an allergy specialist.
Step 2: Get tested
Your doctor might also perform blood tests and skin-prick tests, in which a tiny bit of a substance is injected under the skin to see whether it causes redness and swelling. Those skin tests can be nonspecific when it comes to food allergies. If we were to test 100 people for a milk allergy, 10 would have a positive skin-prick test. But only three to five would have a true allergy. Says allergy specialists. According to guideline issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the gold standard for diagnosing a food allergy is a double-blind, placebo-controlled oral-food challenge. Patients are given increasing doses of the potential allergen during one test and a harmless placebo in another test. The patients are observed carefully for any symptoms. To avoid bias, neither the health-care professional nor the patient knows which pill is which until the test is over. The test does put the patient at risk for a severe reaction, so it’s done in a doctor’s office.
Step 3: Avoid trigger foods
Allergens by gradually increasing their exposure in a carefully controlled setting. But for now, avoid trigger foods. Some food sensitivities are clear – cut – if milk always gives you gas, for example, I’s a good bet that you’re lactose intolerant. But sometimes the source of symptoms is harder to pin down, intolerances can be confused with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or even pollen allergies.
Step 4: Always carry an EpiPen. Make that two!
People at risk of anaphylaxis should carry at least one EpiPen, a self-injector of epinephrine. Make sure anyone who might be called on to use it knows how; for practice, discharge expired injectors into an orange. Program your cell phone with an emergency contact and allergy info in the “notes” area. Experts suggest carrying two EpiPens because it might take more than one shot to stop a severe allergic reaction.
The pollen – food link
If you have seasonal allergies and have ever had odd symptoms after eating certain fruits, nuts, or veggies, you might have oral allergy syndrome. That occurs because some proteins in food are similar to pollen, and the body reacts in the same way. The symptoms aren’t dangerous, just annoying – itchy mouth, throat, or ears or swollen lips. There’s no treatment other than avoiding trigger foods or cooking them; heat breaks down proteins.
If you’re allergic to Birch – you might be sensitive to almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, kiwi, peaches, pears, plums.
If you’re allergic to Grasses – you might be sensitive to celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes.
If you’re allergic to Ragweed – you might be sensitive to bananas, cucumbers, melons, sunflower seeds, zucchini