Food allergies

Everybody needs food to live, but what if food can kill you? Thousands of New Zealanders have to carefully watch what they eat every day and it has nothing to do with a desire to lose weight or diet but everything to do with survival. The wrong ingredient can trigger an allergic reaction that could be fatal.

Food allergies are increasingly common. Although it is possible to be allergic to any food including fruits, vegetables and meats, there are eight foods that account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions: eggs, wheat, soy, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

Avoiding allergic reactions

The safest thing for people with food allergies is to cut the offending ingredient from their diet, but that is not as easy as it seems. Food labels reveal that many items are unavailable, especially to those allergic to nuts, dairy and wheat. Also, for those with severe allergies, a reaction may be caused by eating food that has been in contact with another food item containing the ingredients to which they are allergic. It can be fatal preparing a sandwich with the same knife that was used to spread peanut butter earlier.

Symptoms

People suffering from food allergies can experience a range of symptoms, including a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and the throat, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness to death. Symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after consumption of the food.

Getting help

People who think they may be allergic to certain foods, should contact their doctor to get an official diagnosis. If a food allergy is diagnosed, the only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to completely cut the offending food from your diet. People with food allergies learn to scrutinise ingredient labels and often have to resort to making their own meals and snacks. However, special recipes are available to cook tasty and safe food.

Food allergy resources

Allergy New Zealand
A voluntary not-for-profit organization supported by a medical and scientific panel of New Zealand's leading Allergy and Immunology specialists.
Health Navigator New Zealand: Food allergies - travel
Written for New Zealanders, provides information on travelling with food allergies. Health  articles are written by medical writers and reviewed by consumer health organisations and health professionals.
Family Doctor: Allergies
Written by New Zealand health professionals, Family Doctor contains patient's guides, overviews and links for a wide range of health topics.
MEDLINEplus: Allergy
Extensive information from the National Institutes of Health (USA), contains a medical encyclopaedia, dictionaries, news, overviews, information on specific conditions and links to other organisations.
MEDLINEplus: Food Allergy
Extensive information from the National Institutes of Health (USA), contains a medical encyclopaedia, dictionaries, news, overviews, information on specific conditions and links to other organisations.

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