FOOD ALLERGY & ANAPHYLAXIS
Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Michigan Association (FAAMA)
is a state based professional association aiming to advance formal health education on IgE mediated food allergy and anaphylaxis, assist with food allergy research, and collaborate on health policy legislative initiatives in Michigan. FAAMA was founded in February 2015.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an adverse reaction to food arising from the immune system that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a specific food.
The body creates IgE antibodies to the food protein causing the allergy. Upon exposure to the food allergen, various cells in the body release histamine and other chemicals which cause different symptoms.[1-4]
Any food may potentially cause an allergic reaction. However, the 8 most common foods triggering the majority of allergic reactions include:
How much food does it take to cause a reaction?
The amount of food and the route of exposure needed to cause an allergic reaction vary. Tiny specks of food allergen exposure may be enough to trigger a reaction.
How is a food allergy diagnosed?
Children and adults with suspected food allergy should be evaluated by a board certified allergist. Such evaluation often includes a thorough medical history, physical examination, diagnostic testing and analysis of results. Customized patient/family education on daily management of food allergy and proper use of prescribed medications is often provided by nurses. Once a food allergy is diagnosed, physicians and nurses can provide and review individualized emergency care plans which include information on which food allergens to avoid, symptoms to watch for, and steps to take should a food allergen exposure occur resulting in an allergic reaction. Nutritional concerns may be addressed through referrals to a dietician. An interdisciplinary clinical team approach is needed to provide ongoing quality care of individuals with food allergy.[1,2]
Page last updated and reviewed: April 7, 2016
Can a food allergy be life-threatening?
Yes. Food allergy is a common trigger of anaphylaxis, the severest form of an allergic reaction, which is a life-threatening medical emergency. Anaphylaxis may begin within minutes to hours after exposure to a food allergen. Anaphylaxis can progress very rapidly and may cause death.[1-5]
What are symptoms of anaphylaxis?
Symptoms may include:
Skin: hives (raised redish welts on surface of skin); pruritus (itching); rash; flushing; itchy lips; angioedema (swelling); red, itchy watery eyes; tongue and/or mouth swelling; paleness or cyanosis (bluish skin appearance)
Respiratory: nasal congestion; rhinorrhea (runny nose); coughing; throat itching; throat tightness; stridor (high-pitched noisy breathing due to obstructed air flow); wheezing; dyspnea (shortness of breath); chest tightness; laryngeal edema; choking; hoarseness; trouble speaking; difficulty swallowing
Gastro-intestinal: abdominal pain; cramping; nausea; emesis (vomiting); diarrhea
Cardiovascular: dizziness; tachycardia (very high heart rate); hypotension (decreased blood pressure); bradycardia (decreased heart rate); arrhythmia (irregular heart rate), hypotonia (decreased muscle tone)
Neurological: mental confusion; lethargy; seizures; syncope (fainting); irritability; feeling a sense of doom; loss of consciousness
Anaphylaxis may involve every body system. Anaphylaxis may also occur without seeing hives or other skin symptoms.[1-5]
How is anaphylaxis treated?
The first line treatment for anaphylaxis is an injectable medication called epinephrine. It must be given immediately. Chance of survival is directly correlated with how quickly epinephrine is given. Once epinephrine is administered, 911 must be called for prompt transfer of the individual to the nearest emergency department via ambulance for evaluation and monitoring by physicians and nurses. More than one dose of epinephrine may be needed if symptoms persist or return while waiting for the ambulance.[1-5]
Is there a cure for food allergy?
There is no cure for food allergy. Researchers are studying potential treatment options in clinical trials. Currently, daily management of a diagnosed food allergy requires strict avoidance of the food allergen. This includes avoiding any food or non-food item that may contain the offending food allergen. Anaphylaxis prevention and preparedness is central to successful management.[1-5]
1. Boyce JA, Assa’ad A, Burks AW, et al.Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel.J Allergy Clin Immunol.2010;126(6 suppl):S1-S58.
2. Russell AF, Gosbee LL, Huber MM. Part 2: pertinent food allergy education in a pediatric ambulatory care setting with a focus on anaphylaxis. J Asthma Allergy Educators. 2012;3:162-171.
3. Lieberman PL.Recognition and first –line treatment of anaphylaxis.American Journal of Medicine.2014;127:S6-S11.
4. Simons FER.Anaphylaxis pathogenesis and treatment.Allergy.2011; 66 (Suppl. 95):31–34.
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs . Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.
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