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How to Find Out If You Have a Food Allergy (and Get Treatment) in Philly

Many people have certain foods they avoid. Maybe you pass on baked goods with milk products or opt for an egg-alternative at brunch. But what many people don’t realize is that these habits are likely due to a food intolerance or allergy.

Food allergies are most common in children and follow some to adulthood (a food allergy can resolve at any age).

Fortunately, there are some simple steps to realizing if you have or continue to have a food allergy, and then identifying the foods you are allergic to. Here’s how you can do just that.

Reactions You May Have

Food allergies can present in different ways. An allergic reaction doesn’t always result in a swelling throat and body covered in hives. Allergy symptoms also include difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, tingling or swelling of the tongue and throat, vomiting and diarrhea, eczema or rash, coughing, wheezing, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

In addition to allergies, there are intolerances. These are not true allergic reactions, as they don’t involve the immune system, but they can still cause discomfort or pain. Lactose intolerance is a common example. Due to a lack of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a person may experience discomfort and digestive issues after eating dairy products.

You may also hear people claim that certain foods—usually fruits and vegetables—cause their throats to itch. This could be a case of oral allergy syndrome, which stems from pollen allergies. These allergies are not severe, but cause itching and swelling of the lips, throat, and tongue.

A less common adverse food reaction is exercise-induced, food-associated anaphylaxis. This is an anaphylactic reaction (can include skin rash, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and shock) caused by exercising after eating. Though a person who experiences this type of allergy may be perfectly fine while eating, exercise within two to four hours of eating can result in an anaphylactic reaction.

Investigating Your Allergies—See an Allergist

Allergy skin testing is probably the allergy diagnostic procedure you’re most familiar with. Food allergy skin testing is the first step in determining the presence and severity of a food allergy. A small sample of food extracts are applied to a plastic applicator and brushed on the skin.  Results, available in 20 minutes, in the form of hives are evaluated to determine the next diagnostic steps.

The next diagnostic step may involve allergy lab tests that measure antibody levels for the specific foods.  High levels of the IgE antibodies may indicate a food allergy.

How to Be Completely Sure

Oral food challenges are sometimes the final step in determining the existence of a food allergy. This step is often used when all other testing indicate that a food allergy may have resolved.  Under close monitoring, a patient will be given small doses of the food. After each serving, the patient is evaluated to see how their body is reacting to the allergen. They will continue ingesting more until the amount they consume in one sitting reaches the full serving size. The entire test is done in a controlled medical environment with emergency equipment and medication on hand.

Wondering where to get tested? The board-certified allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists are specially trained and have extensive experience in evaluating your concerns regarding food allergies. Known in the region as caring for the most high-risk food allergic patients, the allergists of A&AS regularly supervise food allergy testing and oral food challenges.

Allergy & Asthma Specialists are also the only allergists in Philadelphia that offer sublingual immunotherapy for peanut allergies This therapy helps to protect against a serious life-threatening reaction due to an accidental exposure. This is particularly important for limiting the danger of severe allergies.

What to Do if Your Tests Come Back Positive

The best thing you can do to prevent an allergic reaction is by simply avoiding the food. However, that can be difficult, depending on the food and how commonly it is used in cooking.

Read food labels, ask what ingredients are being used in the food at restaurants and dinner parties and make it clear that you have a food allergy. If you are at risk for an anaphylactic reaction, getting emergency epinephrine or an EpiPen may be your safest backup plan.

Food allergies are more common in adults than you may think. If you suspect you have an intolerance or allergy, get it checked out. It may save your life.

To set up an appointment or learn more, visit allergyandasthmawellness.com.