by Cassandra Merkling
(last updated July 29, 2009)
What causes a food allergy? Well, what happens is that the person takes in a food that their body recognizes as a harmful substance and begins making antibodies to neutralize the threat. What actually causes the symptoms of an allergy is the chemical histamine that your body's mast cells release into the bloodstream. The histamine works to cause the reaction in the gastrointestinal tract, eyes, nose, respiratory system, or skin.
Some allergies are worse than others. Sometimes you can get an allergy that causes the body to react even at the smell or touch of the allergen. These are what people mean when they call their allergies "severe." If multiple reactions occur at once, such as difficulties with the cardiovascular system, skin reactions, and a swelling of the tongue, the person is in what is called anaphylaxis, which means that the problem is very serious. Sometimes people die of going into anaphylaxis, so it is very important that the person who is going through the allergy is very sure of his or her emergency plan.
Finding out if you have an allergy is as simple as going to a doctor who specializes in allergies. Sometimes it is hard to track down what you are allergic to, but there are tests that can be done fairly quickly to find out if you are allergic to a food. Doctors can do a skin test and get accurate results. All that happens is that the doctor takes a liquid extract of the food you suspect you are allergic to and put it in a little scratch the doctor makes in your skin. The scratch is just a quick pinching feeling and then you can go about your day as normal. Do not try this method at home, though. There is a chance that you could have a really bad, immediate reaction and you need to be somewhere you can get help if anything goes wrong.
As for another method of testing, there is also a blood test method that the doctor can use to find out if you have a food allergy. Basically what is done there is that the doctor or phlebotomist takes a sample of your blood and sends it to a lab, where it is mixed with the food you are suspected of being allergic to and then examined for certain antibodies.
The important thing about having food allergies is to take them seriously and to find out what it is you are allergic to. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency and you should be able to live comfortably with your allergy.
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