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Just as Spring pollen count can trigger itchy eyes, coughing, and wheezing, coming into contact with foods you may be allergic to likewise can trigger negative reactions.

Food allergies are a growing concern in the United States and one of the reasons the month of May is used to draw awareness to the medical issues food allergies present.

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) highlights just three of the reasons paying attention to the potential dangers of food allergies are important:

  1. Food allergies affect some 32 million Americans, including six-million children, and can potentially pose life-threatening medical situations, including anaphylactic shock and reaction.
  2. Adverse reactions to some food sources have skyrocketed in the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, there has been a 377-percent increase in the treatment of diagnosed anaphylactic reactions to foods.
  3. Every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S.

What are the ABCs of Anaphylaxis?

First, anaphylaxis is defined as a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to something.

Second, according to the Allergy Asthma Network, “something” normally comes in the form of a serious negative reaction to foods, insect venom, medications, latex, and in some rare cases, vaccines, including anaphylaxis to Covid-19 vaccines. Allergic reactions may begin with mild symptoms that can quickly turn worse. Deaths from anaphylaxis have been reported within 30 minutes of contact with a food allergen and within 15 minutes of a bee sting.

Third, what are the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis? They may vary in severity from time to time and usually begin mildly but progress rapidly. Often, they include more than one organ of the body. Examples are:

  • Skin: itching, redness, swelling, and hives.
  • Mouth: itching, swelling of lips and tongue.
  • Stomach: vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps.
  • Respiratory system: difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, chest pain.
  • Heart: a weak pulse, dizziness, or faintness.
  • Headache symptoms include nasal congestion or pressure, watery eyes, and perspiration.
  • Confusion.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Additionally, while skin reactions to anaphylaxis normally include an itchy rash and hives, 10-20 percent of people who are allergic to some type of allergens, show no skin symptoms.

What are common anaphylaxis triggers?

Some of the most typical food allergens that trigger anaphylaxis include nuts, milk, fish, shellfish, eggs and some fruits.

Wasp and bee stings are among the most common insect triggers of anaphylaxis, while certain antibiotics, steroids, and in some cases, aspirin, are common medicine triggers. Certain textile dyes used in clothing as well as contact with latex can set off anaphylaxis as well.

Outbreaks and allergic reactions in persons where there are no obvious triggers are called idiopathic anaphylaxis.

With Florida’s hot and muggy climate, and abundance of insect life, flora and fauna, Sunshine State residents may be exposed to more potential anaphylactic triggers than other regions of the country.

Dr. Ted Shuck

Dr. Ted Shuck

Brevard Health Alliance Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ted Schuck explains that knowing what may trigger an allergic reaction to you and reducing your exposure to those allergens, are keys to avoiding negative reactions.

“Determining which triggers may cause anaphylaxis is the first step. Reducing exposures to those triggers would be the next step,” advises Schuck.

“Steps may include avoiding certain environments where exposure may be present, like staying away from active beehives, or when out at a restaurant, asking your server if the establishment cooks with anything that may contain tree nuts.”

According to BHA’s Family Medicine Practitioner, knowing family medical histories and getting tested for allergens can also play a preventive role in avoiding medical complications from them.

“There are many types of testing to determine susceptibility to anaphylaxis. First and foremost, a pertinent history of anaphylaxis is important to know. There is a certain blood test that can be drawn after an anaphylactic event (up to three hours) that will measure certain enzymes released by the body.

“Additionally, a patient may have a blood allergen test (lgE) or skin prick test for allergies. If you are concerned over anaphylaxis or allergies, it’s important to discuss these risks with your health care provider and/or Allergist,” he explains.

So, what are the most commonly prescribed treatments for anaphylaxis?

“Epinephrine (injectables) is the most important medication to administer during a true anaphylactic event,” points out Shuck.

“Other medications for longer use or for allergies may include antihistamines and steroids. Once again, it’s important to discuss your risk of having an anaphylactic episode with your health care provider.”

Table with lot of food