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Q: What is a food allergy? How is it different from a food intolerance?

A: A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a certain food. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as being harmful and develops a defense system (antibodies called IgE) to fight it. Food allergy symptoms develop when the IgE antibodies are battling the “invading” food. The most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy,  and wheat.

A Food intoleranceunlike a food allergy, does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening. Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown, the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.


Q: What is a typical food allergy reaction:

A: Food Allergy reactions can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms of a food allergy often involve the skin and include reactions such as rashes, hives, and eczema. Also, symptoms can typically involve the intestines and might include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, indigestion, and stomach cramps. Anaphylaxis can be defined as a life threatening and sometimes fatal allergic reaction. It is an allergic reaction that involves several organ systems simultaneously. When you are experiencing this severe reaction, symptoms will manifest in the lungs, skin, throat, nose, or gastrointestinal tract. This type of allergic episode is sometimes called anaphylactic shock, although you may experience this severe allergic event without going into shock, and this would entail a precipitous drop in blood pressure.


QHow is a food allergy reaction treated?

A:  Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication used to control a severe reaction. It is available by prescription only as a self-injectable device (EpiPen® or Twinject®). If a doctor has prescribed this medication to you,  CARRY IT WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES.


Q: How do I avoid adverse food allergy reactions:

A. There is no known cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of the foods to which you are allergic is the best way to avoid a reaction.


Q: Do I have to give up eating out if I have a food allergy? 

A: No, not at all. You need to know the proper questions to ask the chef or owner of the restaurant prior to going to the restaurant. This will avoid any problems or major issues at the restaurant. Calling ahead allows you to determine if the restaurant is allergy friendly and able to accommodate your needs. Remember to always ask to speak with the owner or chef of the restaurant. I advise you to: Go with your gut…..if something doesn’t sound right or feel right….DON’T take the risk.