Considering how much Americans love to eat, it may surprise you to learn that more than 30 million of us suffer from food allergies.
A food allergy is a chronic condition in which your body’s immune system treats a foreign substance as a dangerous invader and causes a reaction in the body to get rid of it. During this reaction, you can experience a series of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, depending on the sensitivity of your allergy. Common food allergens include:
- Milk (different from lactose intolerance)
- Fish and shellfish
- Tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachio, hazelnuts)
Symptoms associated with a food allergy typically include:
- An itchy, red rash or hives
- Swelling of lips and tongue
- A runny nose or congestion
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Anaphylaxis, which may involve swelling of the airways and shock due to low blood pressure
Diagnosis and Treatment for Food Allergy
Treatment for a food allergy starts with testing conducted by a certified allergist to determine exactly what foods you are allergic to. Either a skin test or blood test can determine whether you have a food allergy.
A skin prick test is conducted in the doctor’s office and provides results within 15-30 minutes. A nurse or the allergist administers the test on your arm or back by pricking your skin with a small, sterile probe that contains a tiny amount of the food allergen. The test is not painful but can caused itchiness at the test site. Results are considered positive if a wheal – which resembles a mosquito bite bump – develops at the site.
A blood test is less sensitive than a skin prick test. It measures the amount of IgE antibody to the food that is being tested. The results of the test are typically available within one to two weeks.
Another way your allergist can narrow down the search for what foods are causing allergies is by placing you on a special elimination diet, during which you will be asked to keep a daily food diary that lists all the food you eat and the medications you take, as well as your symptoms for the day. You will be asked to refrain from eating a variety of foods and will then reintroduce those foods one at a time to check for a reaction. If only one or two foods appear to be causing your allergies, you will refrain from eating them for one to two weeks. If your allergy symptoms decrease during this period and flare up when you resume eating a certain food, it is highly likely that its the cause of your allergy.
Food Allergy Testing in Will County & DuPage County, IL
The board-certified providers at Oak Brook Allergists are leading experts in the Chicago area in the diagnosis and treatment of many different types of food allergies. We begin by compiling a thorough medical history before conducting allergy testing designed to pinpoint the precise type of food allergy you have. Once your condition is evaluated and an accurate diagnosis is established, our team of highly skilled and experienced specialists will work with you to develop a customized food allergy action plan that aims to ensure your health and safety.
Since food allergies can change over time, it is important that you followup regularly with your allergist for any modifications to your medications or other treatment approaches. We can also educate you on steps that can prevent additional food allergies from developing, as well as methods of developing tolerance to certain food allergens.
In addition to avoidance strategies and medications such as epinephrine auto-injectors and oral antihistamines, we also offer oral immunotherapy (allergy shots) that can help you manage your food allergies to prevent potentially life-threatening reactions that may occur through unintentional allergen exposure.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, don’t take any chances with your health. To establish a firm diagnosis and get the care you need, contact the specialists at Oak Brook Allergists in northeast Illinois by calling us today at (630) 574-0460 or request an appointment now at one of our four convenient locations.