Food Allergy Tests,
Nearly 90 percent of all food allergies – A food allergy is a condition that causes your immune system to treat a normally harmless type of food as if it were a virus, bacteria, or other dangerous infectious agent. The immune system’s response to a food allergy ranges from mild skin rashes to abdominal pain and a life-threatening complication called anaphylactic shock.
Food allergies are more common in children than adults, affecting about 5 percent of children in the United States. Many children outgrow their allergies as they grow older. Nearly 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by the following foods:
• Tree nuts (including almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews)
For some people, even the smallest amount of allergy-causing foods can trigger life-threatening symptoms. Of the foods listed above, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish tend to cause the most severe allergic reactions.
Food allergy tests can determine if you or your child has a food allergy. If a food allergy is suspected, your primary care provider or your child’s provider will likely refer you to an allergist. An allergist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.
Other names: IgE test, oral challenge test
What is this used for?
Food allergy tests are used to find out if you or your child have an allergy to a specific food. It can also be used to find out if you have a true allergy or a food sensitivity instead.Food sensitivity, also called food intolerance, is often mistaken for a food allergy.
The two conditions can have similar symptoms, but the complications can be very different.A food allergy is an immune system reaction that can affect organs throughout the body. May cause dangerous health conditions. Food sensitivities are usually much less severe. If you have food sensitivities, your body can’t properly digest a certain food, or a food bothers your digestive system.
Symptoms of food sensitivities are mostly limited to digestive issues like abdominal pain, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.
Common food sensitivities include:
• Lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. It can be confused with a milk allergy.
• MSG, an additive found in many foods
• Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and other grains. It is sometimes confused with a wheat allergy. Gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies are also different from celiac disease.
In celiac disease, your immune system damages your small intestine when you eat gluten. Some of the digestive symptoms may be similar, but celiac disease is not a food sensitivity or food allergy.
Why do I need food allergy testing?
You or your child may need food allergy testing if you have certain risk factors and/or symptoms.
Risk factors for food allergies include having:
• Family history of food allergies
• Other food allergies
• Other types of allergies, such as hay fever or eczema
The symptoms of food allergies usually affect one or more of the following parts of the body:
• Fur. Skin symptoms include hives, tingling, itching, and redness. In babies with food allergies, the first symptom is usually a rash.
• Digestive system. Symptoms include abdominal pain, a metallic taste in the mouth, and a swollen and/or itchy tongue.
• Respiratory system (includes the lungs, nose, and throat). Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction that affects the entire body. Symptoms may include those listed above, as well as:
• Rapid swelling of the tongue, lips and/or throat
• Narrowing of the airways and difficulty breathing
• Fast pulse
• Pale skin
• Feeling faint
Symptoms can occur just seconds after someone is exposed to the allergic substance. Without prompt medical treatment, anaphylactic shock can be fatal. If anaphylactic shock is suspected, you should call 911 immediately.
If you or your child is at risk of anaphylactic shock, your allergist may prescribe a small device that you can use in an emergency. The device, called an autoinjector, delivers a dose of epinephrine, a drug that slows down allergic reactions. You will still need to get medical help after using the device.
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