It’s a beautiful day outside. The flowers are blooming, their lush petals wide open as they invite you to take a whiff of their intoxicating aroma. You sneeze a few times from the pollen, but blow your nose and take a breath of fresh air. You lean back into your chair and take a bite of your burger. A few minutes later, you can feel your throat and tongue swelling, your face getting red, and your arms itching.
Food allergies affect around 4% of the United States population. The severity of allergies can range from mild discomfort to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. But what exactly is it that makes a person allergic to a specific food?
An allergic reaction is triggered by exposure to a specific substance. When your body is exposed to this substance, it reacts as if there is a foreign invader attacking. This is where antibodies come in – specifically, IgE.
IgE is known as Immunoglobulin E, and once your body senses the allergen it is exposed to, it produces IgE. If you eat the food that you’re allergic to again, your body will trigger IgE and release histamines. Histamine increases blood flow in the area of the body that the allergen is present, and this causes inflammation. When the body senses inflammation, it can then send other antibodies to help fight off the ‘invader’. Thus, a person who has an allergic reaction has a high blood level of IgE.
There is no cure for allergies, but it is common for young children with allergies to grow out of their allergies as they age. It is extremely important to get allergy testing, as knowledge of one’s allergies can end up saving a life. The only way to quickly help a severe allergic reaction is to inject epinephrine, or adrenaline, into the body. However, the reason that many people take medications like Benadryl to help alleviate minor allergic reactions is because Benadryl is an antihistamine, which suppresses the histamine that is released within the body.
If you have a severe reaction to a food you eat and do not have epinephrine injections handy, the best thing to do is to go to the emergency room. Because allergies are so common, getting allergy tests done is an easy way of saving your life. It is also handy to know how to use epinephrine injections and educate others on their use, as they can help another person in need.