Many of us can tell when food doesn’t agree with us, whether we feel bloated from eating too big a portion or maybe you suffer from reflux. Sometimes people confuse food intolerances with allergies so we thought that 29th April - 3rd May being ‘Allergy Awareness Week’ would be a good opportunity to look at the difference and the most common food allergies.
What Is the Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance?
Food allergy is quite uncommon and normally causes symptoms within a few minutes of eating the offending food or being in contact with the relevant substance. Food intolerance (non-allergic hypersensitivity) is much more common. The onset of food intolerance symptoms is usually slower and may be delayed by many hours after eating the offending food; the symptoms may also last for many hours, even into the next day. Some common food intolerances include lactose intolerance; gluten intolerance and histamine intolerance.
About 90 percent of allergic food reactions are caused by eight foods: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. There are 14 major food allergens which need to be mentioned (either on a label or through provided information such as menus) when they are used as ingredients in a food product or meal. However you can be allergic to any food substance.
The top 14 food allergens are:
Celery; Cereals containing gluten; Crustaceans; Eggs; Fish; Lupin; Milk; Molluscs; Mustard; Nuts; Peanuts; Sesame seeds; Soya; Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites).
The only way to prevent these reactions is by completely avoiding foods that contain allergens you are allergic to; however, this can be challenging because we eat many foods that are comprised of multiple ingredients, and we often eat foods prepared outside our homes by other individuals. Reading and understanding labels along with effectively communicating food allergy risks can be paramount in protecting those with food allergies.
What Are the Symptoms of Food Allergy?
Normally food allergy symptoms appear within a few minutes of eating the offending food, although they may be delayed by up to a couple of hours. The symptoms are usually those of ‘classic’ allergy, some of which are:
Gut reactions: Abdominal pain Vomiting Diarrhoea Skin reactions: Itching Swelling (rash or nettle rash) Respiratory reactions: Runny nose Sneezing Wheeze Cough
For mild allergy symptoms, such as hay fever or hives, give an over-the-counter antihistamine.
If the person has had severe reactions in the past or has any of these symptoms you should call 999: Difficulty breathing Hoarseness or trouble speaking Swollen lips, tongue, or throat Abdominal pain, or vomiting Fast heartbeat or pulse Anxiety or dizziness Loss of consciousness