ALLERGYWhat is an allergy?
Allergy is an adverse reaction by our immune system to substances that are not going to harm it.
The immune system mistakenly see the allergens found in pollen, dust, fur from pets, household chemical, foods etc. as foreign invaders. It then releases IgE antibodies to fight off the allergens, which leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, palate to skin rash and asthma. In the severe cases, it can cause swelling on the lips, tongue or face, breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.
According to AllergyUK, allergy is widespread and affects approximately one in four of the population in the UK at some time in their lives. Each year the numbers are increasing by 5% with as many as half of all those affected being children.
Individuals with reaction to specific allergens in foods, inhalants or substances can develop allergy to others and it is becoming better recognised that reactions are occurring to different foods containing the same allergen, or an allergen with a very similar structure. Reactions can be either light or heavy and this is known as allergic cross-reactivity.
This means that someone may suffer and allergic reaction even when they are avoiding the foods they know they are allergic to. If someone is allergic to peanuts, for example, they might react to soya, peas, lentils or beans which are food items in the same biological family (legume). Allergic cross-reaction can also happen between certain fruit or vegetables and latex (known as latex-food syndrome), or the pollens that cause hay fever.
However, cross-reactivity should not be assumed and important foods should not be eliminated from a normal diet without appropriate testing and clinical diagnosis.
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