Food allergies: Could you have one and not know it?

Most people have heard of severe reactions to peanuts or maybe shellfish, but other food allergies are also common — and some people have them and do not know it, according to Dr. Jason Casselman, Reid Health allergist/immunologist.

Jason Casselman, D.O.

Jason Casselman, D.O.

Food allergies affect up to two percent of the population, Dr. Casselman said. “It is possible to have them and not be aware of it,” he said, with the symptoms sometimes blamed on other health conditions such as gastrointestinal problems. “If symptoms occur within an hour of eating specific foods, this could be an indication of a food allergy.”

Among the most common foods allergies are peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, wheat and soy. “Food allergy can cause a variety of reactions,” he said. “The more common reactions include skin rashes, hives or eczema – especially in infants and children – and swelling.” Dr. Casselman said allergies can manifest as a runny nose or nasal congestion, throat closure, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and bloating.”

In more severe cases, these allergies can cause fainting and even a dangerous lowering of blood pressure.  Milk, egg, wheat and soy allergies are more common in children than adults, he noted.

Other important things to know about food allergies, according to Dr. Casselman:

  • All ages can be affected, but are more commonly found in children.
  • People tend to be less aware of allergies to soy and wheat.
  • Some high-risk foods, such as shel fish or tree nuts, have never been eaten by some people – which means they may be allergic and just not know it yet.
  • Some food allergies can be misdiagnosed as other things like asthma or lung disease, angioedema or gastrointestinal problems.
  • Reactions are commonly skin rashes, hives or swelling.
  • Food allergies are generally on the rise, with a variety of theories as to why – including that more is known about diagnosing them.
  • The “gold standard” of treatment is to avoid the foods that cause reactions, though some work is being done with desensitization. “Reaction rates continue to make risk outweigh the benefits at this time,” he said.
  • Some children do “grow out” of certain allergies as adults, but should be sure to work with an allergist for testing before eating anything to which they were once allergic.
  • And uncontrolled or worsening eczema in infants and children is often related to food allergy.

If someone suspects a food allergy, Dr. Casselman recommends testing to find out for sure and to determine severity. “People should be aware of not only the common signs of food allergies, but some of the more subtle signs.”

Dr. Casselman sees patients at Reid ENT, 1434 Chester Blvd., Richmond. He is certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Casselman completed a fellowship in Allergy/Immunology at a culmination of University Hospitals, Regional Medical Centers, and Case Western Reserve affiliates. He focuses on allergies, and his abilities range from testing inhalant allergies to testing and treating allergies from food, drug, venom, and many other conditions.
More about Dr. Casselman and the Allergy Clinic

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