1. Allergies are Different Than Intolerances
An allergy is a response of the immune system. While some immune system responses may involve a reaction from the digestive system, this is not the same as a person’s digestive system being unable to digest a specific type of food. Most food intolerances relate directly to the digestive system.
2. Allergies are Genetic
Allergies are genetic. Individuals do not choose their allergies, nor could they have done anything to prevent them.
3. Allergies Can Change
While the disposition to have allergies is part of the genetics a person is born with, the actual food each person is allergic to may be affected by their environment. Because of this, people can develop a new allergy to any food at any time and specific food allergies may not appear until several years after the individual has already been safely eating the offending food. Likewise, people can “grow out” of their allergies, which is why food allergic people should work closely with a doctor specializing in food allergies to know when it may be safe to introduce a previously eliminated food.
4. Any Food Can Be An Allergen
While 8 major foods are responsible for 90% of food allergies, anybody can be allergic to any type of food. People who have at least one food allergy are likely to have additional food allergies as well.
5. Not Every Symptom Can Be Treated
People with food allergies cannot just take medication to help them digest specific foods. Currently, the best way to handle food allergies is to avoid the offending food in the first place.
6. Even a Trace Amount of Food Can Cause a Serious Reaction
People with food allergies not only have to worry about the actual consumption of the food, but also the way other food they eat has been handled, and if it has run the risk of becoming cross contaminated with a food that is unsafe for them.
7. Allergic Reactions Vary
Food Allergy symptoms can range anywhere from minor indigestion that can be tolerated with minimal exposure at spaced intervals to potentially deadly consequences requiring a strict avoidance of even a trace amount of the offending food, and everything in between. The way each person chooses to handle their food allergies will be different based on their specific risk factors and symptoms.
8. The Same Person May Have Different Reactions to Different Allergens
While people with food allergies are often allergic to more than one food, not every food causes the same reaction. While one food may cause anaphylactic shock, for example, other foods might cause severe indigestion or pressure in the ears, leading to ear infections. People with food allergies have often gone through a combination of time consuming elimination diets and other testing procedures to discover which of their allergens they need to be more careful about than others.
9. Not All Reactions Are Immediate
The onset of food allergic symptoms does not always occur immediately after consuming the offending food. In some cases, the symptoms begin appearing several hours later and can last for several days, until the offending food is completely flushed from their system. In other cases, repeated exposure to a known allergen can cause long term damaging effects.
10. Allergies Are Unpredictable
Just because the last exposure to a specific food did not result in anaphylaxis, doesn’t meant he next exposure won’t. If the doctor has advised a patient to strictly avoid a specific food because they are at risk of anaphylaxis, they should continue to avoid it until the doctor instructs otherwise.
11. We Don’t Know Everything Yet
There is still a lot we don’t know about food allergies. While there are many hypotheses, we lack the scientific evidence to prove everything and there are still many variables left untested. For now, the best recommendation is to strictly avoid any food to which you are allergic.
12. Diagnosis Requires More Than a Scratch or Blood Test
Unfortunately, people with food allergies cannot just take a test at their doctor’s office to determine which foods they are allergic to and exactly how their body will react to the allergen. While these tests are extremely helpful in pointing patients in the right direction, more time consuming and strict elimination diet testing also needs to take place.
13. Food Allergies Are on The Rise
More and more people are discovering food allergies, especially in young children. This includes the rise of anaphylactic allergic responses as well as digestive and other allergy symptoms.
14. Be Patient With People New To Food Allergies
People who are new to food allergies are in the middle of an unexpected lifestyle change. There is not only a lot to learn, but a lot to cope with emotionally as well. In addition to learning about their new world, they are likely still in the troubleshooting process, trying to determine which foods they can eat as well as how strictly they need to avoid the potential of cross contamination with offending foods. If they are troubleshooting using an elimination diet, this may take many months of extreme strictness with what they allow themselves to consume.
For more information about how you can best accommodate food allergic people in your social circles, refer to the section of the Allergy Cookie website written specifically for non-allergic people like you!