For some asthmatics, common food allergies such as a peanut allergy can trigger a sudden asthma attack. Immediate reactions to certain products are potentially life threatening and can occasionally result in the onset of anaphylactic shock.
In other asthma sufferers, the symptoms of a food allergy are delayed and develop over a period of time. Although the symptoms are less immediately obvious, a delayed reaction also has serious implications for the asthmatic.
Delayed reactions can, for instance, lead to the development of chronic bronchial asthma. Also, those asthmatics who exhibit delayed symptoms of a food allergy tend to develop a more severe and inflammatory type of chronic asthma.
In all cases, whether immediate or delayed, the occurrence of one severe reaction to a food allergen (e.g., a wheat allergy) puts the asthmatic at greater risk of developing other allergic reactions.
Identifying Food Allergies
Foods that produce a positive allergy skin test result should be removed from the diet immediately. A problem can arise when certain foods fail to produce positive skin test reactions but are still capable of aggravating an allergic reaction. An extensive process of elimination trials is often the only option to properly diagnose the offending substance.
A dietitian can help design a diet that will eliminate your particular food allergens and meet your nutritional requirements while satisfying your taste buds.
Typical Symptoms of a Food Allergy
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from very mild to a potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.
Mild symptoms of a food allergy include
- Mild itching in nose and throat
- General itchiness
- Runny nose
- Runny and itchy eyes
- Rash (either localized or covering the whole body).
More severe symptoms of a food allergy include:
- Severe swelling of the mouth and throat and sometimes the whole face
- Severe swelling of the airways
- Severely restricted breathing
- Tightness of chest or wheezing
- Recurrent earache
- Recurrent diarrhea
- Onset of anaphylactic shock (this is an emergency, call for immediate medical assistance).
Food allergens can be inhaled and act directly on the lung tissue, or can be absorbed from the digestive tract into the general circulation. Their presence in the bloodstream can trigger a range of symptoms including constriction of the muscles surrounding the airways. This can trigger an asthma attack. Peanut allergy, in particular, is known for its severe and nearly immediate effect.
Common Food Allergies
The severity of many food allergies tends to be related to the amount of the offending food consumed. However, with certain food allergens, the reaction can be immediate and severe if even a small amount is eaten.
- Peanut allergy: A common ingredient in many food products, peanuts can cause severe allergic reactions. (Restaurants now commonly print a warning on their menu when peanuts are used in a dish.)
- Fish/Shellfish allergy: The reaction can be severe.
- Milk allergy: Many asthmatics are intolerant (as opposed to allergic) to milk proteins; suggested alternative sources of calcium for those with milk allergy or intolerance include soy products, spinach and other leafy greens.
- Wheat allergy: Wheat gluten and other grains such as corn and rye are common allergens.
- Other common food allergens: Various berries and peppers have been known to produce symptoms of a food allergy.
A cross-reaction between foods and other allergens can be very dangerous for asthmatics and, in severe cases, can result in the onset of anaphylactic shock.
Studies have determined that some people who are allergic to latex rubber are also particularly sensitive to certain foods, including avocados, apples, bananas, chestnuts, kiwis, peaches, cherries, plums, pineapples, melons, pears, hazelnuts, almonds, celery, carrots and papaya.
If you are asthmatic and begin to experience a tingling or itching sensation in your mouth or on your lips after eating certain foods, seek medical assistance, immediately.