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All about food allergies

Our TeaPops were recently featured in the summer issue of Allergic Living. This brought on an allergy discussion in our DeeBee's office. Who on the DeeBee's team has food allergies? What happens when they come into contact with what their allergen(s)? What do other members of the team need to know in the event of an allergic reaction? Food allergies can range in severity, and with the number of individuals living with allergies on the rise, there is a higher probability that someone in your office has one too. If you have a severe allergy, have you shared it with the people you work with so they are prepared in the case of an emergency?

With more and more people developing food allergies and sensitivities each year, it is important that products are available in the market that are allergen-free. TeaPops are an excellent option as they are free of gluten, nuts and dairy. To some of us, a peanut is a tasty treat, but to others this little nut can do a lot of damage to their systems.

According to FARE, Food Allergy Research and Education, "The job of the body's immune system is to identify and destroy germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that make you sick. A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein ⎯ an allergen as a threat and attacks it. Unlike other types of food disorders, such as intolerances, food allergies are 'IgE mediated.' This means that your immune system produces abnormally large amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin E IgE for short. IgE antibodies fight the 'enemy' food allergens by releasing histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction."

Health Canada identifies peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, soy, seafood, wheat, eggs, milk, mustard and sulphites as the top 10 allergens that cause allergic reactions. The severity of an allergic reaction varies among varying individuals, and different allergens can result in multiple combinations of symptoms.

Mild symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
  • Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
  • Redness of the skin or around the eyes
  • Itchy mouth or ear canal
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nasal congestion or a runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Slight, dry cough
  • Odd taste in mouth
  • Uterine contractions

Severe symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue and/or throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Turning blue
  • Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • A weak or "thread" pulse
  • Sense of "impending doom"

It is also important to know that reactions can occur even without an individual consuming the substance. Contact to skin and even the smell of a substance can trigger an allergic reaction.

This clip from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains food allergies and offers tips on how to manage the condition.

References

"About Food Allergies." foodallergy.org. nd. (August 7, 2014.) http://www.foodallergy.org/about-food-allergies

"Food Allergies." hc-sc.gc.ca. Dec 24, 2013. (August 7, 2014.) http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/allerg/fa-aa/index-eng.php

"Understanding Food Allergies." The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. August 6, 2013. (August 7,2014.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKVjKC3u9hk