Restaurant Food Allergy Guide

A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts in defence to a specific food item. Food allergies are uncommon, occurring in less than 10% of the population, more frequent in children than in adults. This condition should not be confused with food intolerance, which occurs when food is not digested properly. Symptoms include hives, itchy skin, runny nose, coughing, wheezing or diarrhea among others. Food allergies can be mild to serious, leading to swelling, anaphylaxis or death. Individuals of any age who exhibit any of the signs should consult an allergist as soon as possible. An allergist will be able to advise proper treatment and how to manage the condition.


What Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies are a result of the body’s immune system responding to the food particles much in the same way as it does with a germ, bacteria or disease. Antibodies are produced by the body to combat the foreign material. As the antibodies attack the food protein, an allergic reaction occurs. Symptoms may appear, ranging from as mild as itching and rashes to more serious reactions such as trouble breathing or loss of consciousness. If treatment is not given right away, food allergies can also be fatal. There is no established cure for food allergies although people with the condition can still lead normal, productive lives. Use of products such as EpiPens is only good for controlling severe reactions but do not treat the condition itself. The only way to manage food allergies is to avoid the triggers themselves. However, it is also necessary for the individual to know which foods are causing the allergies and the alternative forms. Patients will need to see an allergist who will conduct a series of tests to determine which foods should be avoided. They will also advise the patient on how to effectively manage the condition and what to do in case of an emergency.

You've Never Had Allergies Before, But...

Food allergies are rare, occurring in only 2% to 10% of the American population yet a larger percentage confuse their condition with having food allergies. With kids, some parents think that their child is merely being picky with food. A food allergy is different from food intolerance. Although both conditions involve a reaction to food, the effects of food intolerance are less severe. When it comes to food intolerance, the body is unable to digest components of the food, leaving the individual feeling bloated or nauseated. Lactose intolerance is one common example. Self-diagnosis is not recommended in either case. Simply avoiding the triggers can result in missing out vital nutrients contained in the food item. A consultation with an allergist and a dietitian is recommended as they can advise alternative foods to make up for the lost nutrients.

So Your Child Has Food Allergies...What now?

Knowing how to manage food allergies is essential to living a safe and healthy life. In 2006, the United States passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. This requires companies to indicate if the food item contains even trace amounts of milk, wheat, soy, egg, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. These are printed on the back of the label in plain English for easy identification. However, food manufacturing companies are not required to do the same for other ingredients. Parents will need to practice due diligence in reading the ingredient label and knowing the alternative names for triggers. Encourage the child to do the same by playing games of identifying the technical and scientific names of ingredients. Also encourage them to ask questions and explain why they need to be careful when it comes to food. Explain to the child that it is not a condition to be ashamed of and should not be kept hidden. Inform their teachers as well. Taking every bit of care possible is needed to managing the condition effectively.

There Are Myths Out There...So What's True?

Myths arise when there people do not have access to reliable information. With government agencies and the rising number of organizations involved in dispersing information about food allergies, more and more myths are being debunked. One myth involves thinking that food allergies, intolerance and sensitivity are the same condition. With food sensitivity, the body reacts to certain foods but not in a consistent manner. When it comes to food tolerance, the body lacks enzymes to sufficiently digest the food, resulting in cramps or feeling bloated. Both conditions do not involve the immune system are not fatal. With food allergies, even trace amounts can trigger a reaction. If the person is allergic to eggs, then cakes and pastries that contain small portions of egg should also be avoided. Another myth involves treatment or management of allergies. Some individuals self-diagnose and simply avoid the triggers. Individuals will need to know the alternative forms of triggers and what to do in case an allergic reaction occurs. Another involves testing for allergies. In the past, blood tests were believed to be sufficient in indicating a food allergy. However, this does not pinpoint what type of allergy the person has as the same results are also present in people with asthma. Instead, ask the doctor for a food challenge which will rule out other possible triggers.

Where Can You Get More Information?

The Internet is filled with all kinds of information regarding food allergies. Determining which websites and groups are reliable is a greater challenge. Some of the most trustworthy sources include government agencies and medical organizations which can help in getting updated with the latest news and legislation concerning food allergies. Joining support groups is also recommended for individuals and families with food allergies. Not only will members get vital information on the latest news, they will also learn techniques on how to manage their allergies.