Autumn & Food Allergy

, , Comment closed


Written by: Elena M. Ubals, M.D.
63649636 - food allergy. allergic food on  wooden background. view from above
Since autumn is the season for harvesting crops, it comes as no surprise that autumn is also the season for great celebrations, carnivals, and fairs to welcome abundance and prosperity with a large display of delicacies and treats. Nature softens and dresses up in golden hues to offer us a well-deserved gift for the year’s hard work.  Autumn is also the season when family and friends gather around the table to savor and enjoy grandma’s recipes that meet the approval of our most demanding guests. For most of us no longer involved with farming cycles, these celebrations start with Halloween followed quickly by Thanksgiving and culminate with Christmas and New Years.  The festivities go by so quickly that it seems that as we give the candies to the children on our doorsteps, the year is gone.  It is a dazzling succession of culinary festivities wrapped in the warm reunion of loved ones. It is, without doubt, a wonderful season.  It is also a season of elaborate and complicated recipes; strong dishes with overwhelming sauces, desserts with nuts, sausages, fish, seafood, wine, and champagne; a huge gastronomic explosion!  It is worth remembering, without lessening the festivities and for obvious reasons, that this season is associated with the vast majority of food reactions.
 Allergic reactions to food are relatively rare in adults but somewhat more frequent in children; the incidence in adults is estimated to be approximately 1% and in children, under three years of age, about 8%.  For unknown reasons, the occurrence of allergic reactions to foods is on the rise.  For instance, the frequency of peanut and tree nut allergy has risen in some countries such as the United States.  Any food is capable of triggering an allergic reaction, but the foods commonly implicated in the majority of allergic reactions are cow’s milk, egg white, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and seafood.  The allergic reaction is an immunologic reaction to the protein in the food and almost always occurs suddenly after the food is ingested, it is accompanied by urticaria or hives on the skin, edema or swelling, difficulty breathing and even low blood pressure with loss of consciousness.  Some of these reactions can be very dangerous or even fatal.  The person affected should seek the help of an allergy specialist to confirm the allergy through a blood test or a skin test. In addition, the person should avoid the food in question and have an adrenaline auto-injector to be used in case of an allergic reaction caused by accidental ingestion of such food.
There are other types of immunologic allergic reactions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis which are especially common in children and manifests with itching and recurrent skin rashes.  Atopic dermatitis is sometimes related to the ingestion of certain foods.  Allergic reactions should be differentiated from other reactions related to food ingestion that is not allergic such as food intolerance, toxic food poisoning, foodborne infection, and plain indigestion. For example, lactose intolerance is a very common condition that manifests with abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea after ingesting milk. Toxic food poisoning such as Scombroid is caused by ingesting spoiled fish and could easily be mistaken at first sight with an allergic reaction. 
Fortunately, plain indigestion is the most common food-related ailment in general and in festive seasons in particular; in the majority of cases, indigestion does not have major consequences.  Therefore, let us enjoy the festivities with moderation, keep an eye on guests with known food allergies, especially children, and Bon Appetit!
For more information about allergies, visit The Allergy Group