MADISON, Wis. - Food allergies can range from being a daily nuisance to a deadly threat, and research shows they are growing more and more common.
May is Allergy Awareness Month, so News 3 Now spoke with local registered dietician Emmy Bawden to learn more about allergies and what you can do to keep yourself and your children safe.
1. Who is most likely to have food allergies and what kind are they?
Bawden said kids are most likely to have food allergies, but adults can develop them later on in life, too. The eight major food allergens in the U.S. are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
2. Why does it seem like more people have allergies now?
"There's a kind of environmental aspect to it," said Bawden. "Our food system is changing. That could be behind why we're seeing a rise in food allergies. It could also be that our ability to test and detect food allergies and intolerances is increasing as well."
3. How can I tell if I am having an allergic reaction?
Symptoms of a potential allergy include any immune system response: from hives and an itchy mouth, to difficulty breathing or anaphylactic shock.
4. I think I have an allergy... now what?
If you suspect a food allergy, it's worth seeing a board-certified allergist rather than trying to diagnose yourself.
5. Is there a difference between food sentitivities, intolerances, and allergies?
In a simple word: yes. Bawden said allergies trigger an immune system response, like the ones outlined above. On the other hand, food sensitivities or intolerances tend to cause digestive issues like cramping or nausea.
6. Is there an easy way to tell if I have a food sensitivity?
It's not recommended that you self-diagnosis for a food sensitivity. Bawden said you might unnecessarily restrict foods in your diet that you can actually tolerate well. She suggests seeing a dietitian and going over a detailed history of your eating patterns.
7. I have an allergy and/or sensitivity. Will I ever be able to eat like "normal" again?
While the transition can be tough, once you learn how to read food and supplement labels, living with an allergy or food sensitivity will become your new normal. Luckily, nowadays, restaurants have food allergen lists readily available, and general practitioners are able to provide patients with appropriate resources to navigate having an allergy.
8. If you or your kids have an allergy, you might have something else, too.
Children with food allergies are more likely to have other allergies, such as asthma, according to the Organization Food Allergy Research and Education.
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