What is a food allergy?
A true food allergy or food hypersensitivity is an adverse reaction to a food or food component that involves the body’s immune system.
Using milk as an example, an immunologic response would occur as a result of allergy antibodies interacting with the protein in cow’s milk, whereas the nonimmunologic response would be lactose intolerance, wherein there is insufficient lactase to break down the sugar (lactose) in milk.
Although many people believe they have a food allergy, true food allergies are less common, affecting 3-8% of children and less than 2% of adults in the general population.
Food allergies are on the rise.
For reasons that aren’t clear, food allergy cases are on the rise in the US and worldwide. While some patients only have annoying, mild symptoms after eating the wrong food, others can have life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis.
Thank goodness there is finally something to offer families with food allergies. Oral Immunotherapy has been way overdue – for decades all allergists have been able to do is the recommend avoidance of the offending food and prescribe a self-injecting epinephrine device to use in the event of a severe reaction.
What are the most common food allergens?
While any food protein is potentially capable of eliciting an allergic reaction, most reactions are due to a limited number of foods. The ‘big five’ – egg, milk, peanut, soy and wheat – account for ~ 85% of food allergies. If you add sesame, fish, and tree nuts to that list you have now identified the cause of 95% of reactions.