Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis in an Irritating Nutshell
A person will never know if they are allergic to a certain type of food unless they have eaten the food allergen itself. It takes a certain amount of food for the reaction to take place and trigger a symptom.
Food allergy and anaphylaxis are closely related, but they have their own defining differences that will be discussed as you read on.
Plus, a person can also develop allergic reactions to foods that are closely related to the original food allergy he or she has. Say, an allergy to oysters can also lead to an allergic reaction when the person eats shrimp, crabs, or fish.
In food allergy, the individual's immune system reacts in two ways. The body may respond through the use of mast cells. These mast cells can come about at just any part of the human body but its favorite spots make itself known to the world is in the throat, lungs, eyes, skin, and especially the organs of the gastrointestinal system. The other type of response is through the body's release of immunoglobulin E antibodies that travel through the blood system. It then eventually causes the discharge of the body chemical histamine which then causes the activation of allergic reactions in the common body sites previously mentioned.
On the other hand, anaphylaxis is derived form the Greek words ana and phylaxis, which subsequently means back and protection. It is the abrupt allergic response that is much more intense than the common allergy which can be lethal to the sufferer. Chief causes of anaphylaxis include insect stings, skin contact to latex, medications, and food. Anaphylaxis may also be idiopathically caused or, in lay man's terms, unknown causes.
Like in food allergy, anaphylaxis involves the reaction of the different body sites; the only difference is the intensity of the response and only a small amount of the allergen is needed for the reaction to take place. The time span before signs and symptoms become evident ranges from within a few seconds up to a few hours after allergen exposure.
Anaphylaxis can come about following the intake of food, skin contact, or even as simple as inhalation of the food aroma. The life threatening type of anaphylaxis is called anaphylactic shock. In anaphylactic shock, only a tiny amount of the food allergen is needed to cause death to the sufferer within moments of exposure.
Individuals who are in danger of undergoing an anaphylactic reaction are those who have a history of allergy to food, asthma, and eczema. They are more likely to experience an anaphylactic response that can be fatal. Another population group who are also at risk of anaphylaxis, through the evidences of current studies that have been conducted, is teenagers who are afflicted with a certain type of food allergy. This is due to the fact that teenagers have frequent tendencies to eat out, are daring and experimental in their endeavors, and are more likely to fail to identify symptoms of anaphylactic reaction. Moreover, teenagers have tendencies to forget to carry with them essential medications which can either be caused by self-consciousness common to their age group.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis may be similar to that of food allergies. Basically, an incident of anaphylaxis initially starts with an itchy or irritating sensation, and some individuals experience a metallic after-taste. Anaphylactic symptoms may also include hot flashes or sudden warm feeling, inflammation of the throat and oral cavity, hives, dyspnea or labored breathing, low blood pressure, diarrhea, gastric irritations, and fainting or loss of consciousness.
Furthermore, there are cases wherein the symptoms fade away for a moment but then come back within a few hours; this incidence is known as biphasic reaction.
To prevent food allergy and anaphylactic reactions, careful scrutiny of food labels, diet modifications, specific instructions in food orders in restaurants, and certain medications can be of great help in reducing the incidence of any type of reaction. Moreover, a consultation to the physician is advisable for an efficient management plan and if allergies seem to run in families because it can also be hereditarily caused.