Food allergies are increasing. Recent surveys worldwide indicate them to be on the rise. This includes among both adults and children. In the United States, food allergies have becoming increasingly prevalent among children under children under 18 years of age. In fact, it is also the current fifth leading chronic disease in America for all age groups.
Since 1997, statistics indicate a rise in food allergies among American children and adults. Food allergies are the result of an autoimmune response to an allergen substance in food. Although generally harmless to the majority of the population, this same food causes a hypersensitive reaction within the autoimmune system. The result can be as mild as a small rash and as major as life-threatening anaphylaxis shock.
The triggers generally remain the same as they have over the past 20 years. Common food such as nuts, eggs and shellfish continue to dominate as allergens. Researchers and allergists are still trying to determine what is causing the spike in food allergies.
A number of theories are being tossed about to explain the rise in food allergies. Below, you will find the most common ones. None of them have proven to be the definitive cause for this increase.
These are currently the major theories explaining the rise in food allergies over the past two decades. However, it is not yet possible to arrive at a singular conclusion. Only further in depth research in this area can provide us all with greater insight into what continues to be an intriguing and unanswered health problem.
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If you have a true allergy, you need to see a professional allergist. He or she can perform a number of tests to see if you actually suffer from an allergy. This is an essential part of the diagnosis process. Since the symptoms you exhibit may not directly indicate a specific allergen and can vary with individuals, this visit is essential. Your allergist or doctor cannot treat your allergy if they cannot pin point the trigger.
A visit to an allergist is similar in many ways to that of any other doctor. While the focus of the allergist is on your allergy, his or her approach adopts a common approach. In the beginning, he or she will first talk to you about your medical history. This may include previous reactions or health issues.
The allergist will ask questions about your current health and ask you to show any physical signs of the perceived allergy. He or she will ask about such things as:
It is only after a thorough physical examination that the allergy doctor will arrange for you to undergo a series of tests.
Tests can vary. The three most common ones are:
Skin tests are the most basic and popular for to discover what allergens are causing the problem. They involve placing a small amount of the most common allergens on the skin. A sterile probe pricks the skin to allow the material to enter the upper layers. The allergist may arrange for your skin to receive several different potential allergens or restrict to those he, she or you suspect are the culprits. The doctor will also include controls – materials that will not cause a reaction.
The entire test lasts about 20 minutes. It is rarely painful. If your skin presents a bump on the spot of the prick, you are allergic to this substance. Your doctor can then arrive at a potential treatment. You will also know what substances you need to avoid in the future.
Prick tests are more common and reliable than blood tests are. Results may take a week to confirm an allergen. Food challenges only apply to a suspected allergy. They involve you sampling suspected food items in small amounts. Food challenges should only be done under the watchful eye of a specialist.
If you think you have an allergy, the only way to safely and successfully determine the specific cause or causes, is to consult an allergist. This specialist will run test, including the prick test to confirm the causal factors. He can then work with you to arrange for the appropriate treatment program.
Call our offices at 212-319-5282 to schedule an appointment.
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