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Friday, April 6, 2012

Food Allergy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to list ingredients on their products.  They also require food allergy labels for the eight most common ingredients that trigger food allergies.  The eight foods listed below account for an estimated 90 percent of allergic reactions.  The eight foods are:
- Milk
- Eggs
- Peanuts
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
- Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Soy
- Wheat

All domestic or imported packaged foods are labeled with an allergy warning if the product contains one of the above allergens.

The label lists the type of allergen, such as soy or wheat.  (see photo below)

It is very important to pay attention to these labels if you have food allergies.  Food allergies can cause serious illness or death.

Here are the most common symptoms of food allergy:

- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid the foods that cause signs and symptoms. However, it is almost impossible to totally avoid all foods that cause allergies so if you have a reaction, you will need treatment.

For a minor allergic reaction, over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines may help reduce symptoms.

For a severe allergic reaction, you may need an emergency injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room.

For more detailed information of treatment and food allergies in general, check out these web sites:

Food Allergy (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Treating an Allergic Reaction (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network)
Have Food Allergies? Read the Label (Food and Drug Administration)
Tips for Managing Food Allergies (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network)
Food Allergy (MedlinePlus Health Topic)

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