RIDGELAND, Miss– Allergies vary as do the reactions. News Mississippi sat down with an allergist to get you the information you need on protecting yourself from reaction.
Itching, skin peeling, and hives sound bad, but those are just mild allergic reactions compared to those that can take your life.
“Most people are familiar with what doctors call anaphylaxis,” says Mississippi Asthma and Allergy’s Dr. Daniel Vanarske, “that effects the airways and could be life threatening if not treated.”
That’s when your airway tightens and you can’t breath. That type of reaction typically happens with a food allergy. Peanut, shellfish, fish, milk, egg and soy are the most common food reactions Dr. Vanarske sees in his patients.
Symptoms of a food allergy could also be hives, swollen lips, and itching. Even though that doesn’t sound terrible, Dr. Vanarske says that’s not where it ends.
“Most food allergies do get worse over time,” Dr. Vanarske says, “it could be mild at first but then with more exposure be life threatening.”
As scary as these reactions are, Dr. Vanarske says that testing is in your benefit.
“The way we test for food allergies among patients who have had severe allergies is through blood testing,” says Dr. Vanarske, “that way we don’t provoke a reaction during testing.”
Dr. Vanarske adds that testing in your allergist office is safe and provides counseling for how to manage symptoms and exposure. Allergy testing can also benefit you as your learning what foods to avoid.
“Some patients are allergic to parts of the peanut but can tolerate certain peanut oils,” says Dr. Vanarske, “and with proper blood testing we can predict how severe reactions will be and if avoidance is needed.”
And with other allergies, such as milk allergies, changing the form of the allergen can change the reaction.
“In patients with milk allergies,” says Dr. Vanarske, “we find that they can tolerate milk in a product that has been baked or cooked, such as a cake or muffin. Unfortunately, peanuts are more resilient to that than eggs or milk.”
Allergy testing also catches what else you could be allergic to before your reaction. A patient allergic to one type of shellfish may be at risk of reaction to other types of shellfish or seafood. But there’s a myth with shellfish allergies that Dr. Vanarske says is just not true.
“People with iodine allergies are often told they are also allergic to shellfish, or vice versa,” Dr. Vanarske says, “but that’s not always the case.”
The difference is in iodine and iodide. Iodine is often used in medical procedures. Iodide is found in certain types of seafood, such as shrimp. Just because a patient is allergic to one, doesn’t mean he’s allergic to the other.
Dr. Vanarske had more to share about allergies, so here’s everything we discussed:
Dr. Vanarske says that allergy management also lies in education about what you can and can’t have.
“There’s this website by patients, for patients,” says Dr. Vanarske, “it carries the medical seal of approval.”
That website is www.foodallergy.com.
The website is not a replacement for seeing your doctor. If you suspect you have a food allergy, contact your doctor.
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