May Is Food Allergy Awareness Month
May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada. Food allergy is one of the leading causes of potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions in Canada. About 2.5 million Canadians are affected by food allergy, and 1-in-2 Canadians know someone with a food allergy.
There is no way of predicting how severe an allergic reaction may be – and there is no known cure for food allergy. Therefore, it is extremely important for a person with food allergies to avoid allergenic foods.
How are food allergies diagnosed?
If you think you or your child had an allergic reaction, see a doctor. Your doctor can refer you to an allergist who can confirm an allergy.
Your doctor or allergist will begin by asking the following questions:
- What happened when the reaction occurred (symptoms)?
- When did the reaction first start?
- How long did it last?
- What treatments were used?
- Do any other family members have allergies?
There are 3 types of tests used by allergists to identify food allergies:
Skin Prick Test. Although this test is more reliable for airborne allergies, it is the most common test used by allergists as a first step in identifying food allergies. A small drop of the allergen is placed on the skin, which is then pricked with a needle so the body can absorb the allergen. After about 15-20 minutes, the skin is examined for reactions. Depending on the results, blood test may follow.
Blood Tests. When a person is allergic to something, their immune system reacts by making antibodies specific to the allergen. A blood sample is taken, mixed with the allergen and the level of antibodies is measured.
Oral Food Challenge Test. This test may be used when a child seems to have outgrown their allergy. An allergist gives the child increasing amounts of the food in timed intervals. If it is tolerated without any reaction occurring, then the allergist will determine whether the child has outgrown the allergy.
Other types of allergy tests, such as Electrodermal Testing Hair Analysis, are unproven to provide accurate results.