Food allergy is a reaction of the immune system after a person eats a certain food. The allergic reaction may be provoked even when the person consumes a very small amount of the trigger food. Symptoms of food allergy include swollen airways, hives, and digestive problems. Some people may even experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.
Food allergy is widespread, affecting about 6 to 8 percent of children under the age of 3 and roughly 3 percent of adults.
It can be difficult to live with food allergies, but one of the most common coping methods is avoidance. The following are simple ways to avoid food allergy:
- Read labels – Food labels today include important allergy information. Reading the label before buying food will help you stay away from problematic ingredients.
- Use care when cooking – Cooking food for allergic family members can be challenging. It is not enough to simply eliminate allergens from someone’s serving of food. The chef must also avoid cross-contamination. One example of cross-contaminating food is to use a knife to cut salad after it was used to cut nuts. If someone has nut allergies, even a trace of nut protein could pass from the knife to the salad. The allergic person could be unwittingly exposed to the trigger and have an uncomfortable or even dangerous reaction.
- Exercise caution when dining out – Eat only in restaurants where you can be assured of good communication with the kitchen staff. The Internet often includes recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants.
- Wear a medical ID – If you are prone to severe food-based allergic reactions, be sure to carry medical identification with relevant information about your sensitivities. You should also carry an epinephrine autoinjector in case you are accidentally exposed to a hazardous allergen.
Some people with food allergies find help in the use of essential oils that may mitigate symptoms. These include:
- Lemon essential oil – Lemon oil inhibits infection and has shown great potential in treating respiratory problems. It may reduce coughing and sneezing, which are common symptoms of allergy.
- Peppermint essential oil – Peppermint oil may counter swelling resulting from an allergy.
- Lavender essential oil – Lavender oil may calm and reduce inflammation, making it a popular oil during allergy season. Allergic inflammation is common in the nose, sinuses, airways, and skin.
If your quality of life is significantly affected by allergies, consider allergy immunotherapy. Allergy pills and inhalers help you manage symptoms, but only allergy immunotherapy gets to the source of the allergy itself. The treatment is available through subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) as well as sublingual immunotherapy (under-the-tongue oral allergy drops).