More and more people are developing allergies, according to recent research. Anne Hahn looks at common allergies and what to do about them

People often say they are ‘allergic’ to a certain food or substance, but according to the Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA) there is a difference between hypersensitivity and true allergy. Hypersensitivity is a general term that refers to any adverse reaction to a substance, whereas allergy is a reaction of the body’s immune system to an allergen (any substance that causes a bad reaction in the body, from foods to pollen and even perfume or cosmetic products). The body sees the allergen as dangerous and releases chemicals called histamines, to counteract the ‘danger’. 

Allergic reactions range from mild, such as slight hayfever or skin rashes to potentially serious, such as asthma and even life-threatening anaphylaxis, when the body’s immune system releases substances that cause the allergic person to go into a state of shock. Symptoms include an itchy rash, a drop in blood pressure, suddenly feeling warm, swelling of the tongue and throat, shortness of breath, a weak, rapid pulse and nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. A study in the USA recently reported that anaphylactic reactions to food had increased by a whopping 337% between 2007 and 2012.

Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the most common culprits are wheat and dairy products. New food allergens are constantly being identified. A recent study in Botswana reported the first cases of allergy to mopane worm and mogwagwa (a fruit indigenous to parts of Africa).

If you suspect you might suffer from allergies, you need to take a skin-
prick test. This involves pricking the skin on your arm through a drop of solution containing the suspected allergens. If a weal (red bump) of a certain size appears, this indicates an allergic reaction. Blood tests can also detect antigens (what your body produces to enable it to ‘recognise’ and fight the allergen next time you encounter it).

If you think your child is allergic to a food (or anything else), it’s very important to have them tested so you can avoid the substances the child is allergic to. Ask your doctor or local clinic to refer you to an allergy clinic. Allergy dieticians will also give advice on avoiding hidden sources of problem foods.

Wheat , cow’s milk, egg, soya, peanuts & tree nuts, fish & shellfish.

If your child suffers from allergies, it’s very important to make them understand that there are certain foods they cannot have, or substances they shouldn’t touch. In many cases, children will ‘outgrow’ allergies. Try to offer substitute foods that the child enjoys. If it’s something like wool that affects the child, make sure there is no wool in the house.

Allergy to peanuts can result in a severe reaction, even to small traces of the nut in a chocolate, which is why most food products list allergens on the label (common warnings are ‘this product was made in a factory that uses nuts’ or ‘may contain nuts’). Always read food labels before giving anything to a child or anyone else who has allergies.

Other common causes of allergies are pet hair, house dust mites, wool, grass and pollen. If you or anyone in your family is allergic to any of these, it might be necessary to make some household changes. If the allergen is wool, for example, you should get rid of any woollen clothing or blankets in the house.
If someone is allergic to certain perfumes or cosmetics, they should avoid them completely.

There’s no ‘quick fix’ for allergies, but symptoms can be controlled with medication such as tablets, inhalers, ointments and eye drops. If there is a danger of anaphylaxis, the allergic person must carry an Epipen (to inject adrenaline into their muscles) at all times because symptoms can cause collapse and death within minutes. Teachers and work colleagues should also always be informed about allergies and how to help in the event of an allergic reaction. They should also be given the telephone number of the allergy sufferer’s medical practitioner.

Always read food labels before giving anything to a child or anyone else who has allergies

For an anaphylactic reaction include:

Bee or wasp stings

Over-the-counter painkillers and antibiotics

Shellfish is a common culprit

Jet club members have free access to jet club’s helplines. For details of an allergy clinic in your area call personal health advisor

SA & Namibia
0800 0045 45 

Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland
+2711 991 8258

ALLERGY ALERT ALLERGY ALERT Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on March 12, 2018 Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.