Sudden Reaction to a Food? It Could Be Adult-Onset Allergy

FRIDAY, February 25, 2022 (HealthDay News). You bite into an apple, and suddenly your mouth starts to tingle. Or you eat shrimp for dinner and get hives.

You are not a child, and you could have been eating these foods all your life, so what happens?

Several conditions can cause, but one of them is food allergies in adults. It becomes an allergy—sometimes a serious one—after reaching adulthood.

Researchers don’t know precisely why some people become allergic to certain foods after they grow up, but there are several theories about triggers as well as possible treatments.

“There are so many foodborne illnesses, and it’s so important to understand what you have because you want to know how to deal with it, and some of them are treatable,” said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of the Food Allergy Center. Asthma, part of the Institute of Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), more than 50 million Americans have food allergies, when a person’s immune system overreacts to something in the food.

According to Gupta, this includes about 10% of adults. Own research. Some allergies are passed down from childhood, but almost half start in adulthood. About 38% of a 2019 study of 40,000 people reported a severe food reaction that sent them to the emergency room.

While you can be allergic to anything, nine substances cause 90% of food allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, finfish, soy, wheat, and sesame.

According to Gupta, among adults, shellfish allergy is the most common, affecting nearly 3%.

Life changes trigger

Although allergies tend to run families, researchers have identified environmental change among the many reasons for new allergies in adulthood. You may have moved and are exposed to various allergens that activate your immune system.

A viral or bacterial infection can also flip that switch.

Hormones can also be a catalyst, especially in women. Food allergies often develop during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.

“Allergies are slightly higher in women as adults, and we don’t quite understand the mechanism yet, but it could be due to changes in our hormones,” said Dr. Tanya Elliott, ACAAI spokesperson and professor at New York University. Langone Health in New York.

She says that some women may experience a worsening of systemic allergies during different phases of the menstrual cycle.

Another possible reason: Certain medications or alcohol can change the acidity of the intestines, so the body stops breaking down certain foods like it used to, Elliott said.

This triggers what is known as an IgE-mediated immune response, which Elliott described as “a fancy term for our bodies reacting abnormally to something that happens naturally in the environment.”

Elliott said that this natural reaction causes the body to release chemicals, including histamine, that can cause itching, redness, swelling, and dilation of blood vessels.

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Allergies can affect multiple organ systems with skin reactions, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and vasodilation. Your doctor may ask you to bring adrenaline with you so that you can quickly treat this dangerous reaction.

 An allergist can help with a diagnosis.

Food intolerance is different. Symptoms may include bloating, fatigue, or another discomfort that may take days to appear rather than minutes or hours. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, Elliott suggested keeping a food diary for two weeks and then letting your doctor review it. This can lead to an elimination diet to uncover the culprit.

The tingling in some people’s mouths after biting into a fresh apple can be a condition called oral allergy syndrome.

For example, if you are allergic to tree pollen, you may react to eating the fruit of that tree. In addition to the tingling sensation, you may develop a rash or hives in your mouth. It is unlikely that this will cause anaphylaxis, and according to Gupta, you will be able to continue eating this food.

“It’s important to talk to your allergist and make sure you know what’s going on,” she said because sometimes cooking can reduce a reaction.

However, this does not apply to those who experience a severe allergic reaction.

“These are the ones where you need to avoid this allergen completely,” Gupta said, adding that getting an official diagnosis is essential.

While 10% of adults have food allergies, about 20% of Gupta’s study participants suspected they did. Many could be intolerant to certain foods, such as the lactose in milk. About 1 in 20 in Gupta’s study reported seeking a diagnosis.

A small Canadian study of 14 patients found that “food allergy in adults, especially with subsequent anaphylaxis, is an important phenomenon to be recognized even if patients have previously tolerated the food in question.”

If you suspect an allergic reaction to a food and it’s not severe enough to send you to the emergency room, take photos of your response along with the food, including any spices used in the dish, and share the images with your doctor Elliott suggested.

This is because spice allergies are on the rise. Your doctor can conduct targeted testing of specific ingredients in a suspicious dish, she says. Just don’t despair if you love crab or nuts and suddenly can’t eat them. According to Gupta, treatment is on the way. There is already oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy in children approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. While it’s not yet approved for adults, Gupta predicts it will eventually happen ongoing clinical trials also evaluate biologics that alter the part of the immune pathway that causes the response.“I just want everyone to know that right now; there is hope that we will have food allergy medications in the next 5 to 10 years,” Gupta said.

More information

The US Food and Drug Administration has more information on food allergies.

SOURCES: Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma, Institute of Public Health and Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; Tanya Elliott, MD, American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Allergist/Immunologist, NYU Langone Health, New York.

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