From traditional family recipes and holiday parties, to special cookies, the holiday season is synonymous with food. While enjoying special meals and treats can make us feel good, for some, certain foods can trigger feelings of physical discomfort, illness or worse. If consuming certain foods is causing an unexpected physical reaction, it is important to understand why.
Allergy or Intolerance?
We often think about food allergies in children, or food allergies that are diagnosed in childhood, but more than 1 in 10 of adults in the United States are now estimated to have a food allergy according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association study. Many times, these food allergies are not diagnosed until adulthood. Given the rise of allergies in children, it makes sense that we would also see a rise in adult-onset allergies.
A food allergy is an immune-mediated response to a food protein in which the body identifies certain foods as harmful and makes a specific antibody Immunoglobulin E (IgE) against that food.
Food allergy symptoms may include:
- Itchy mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
- Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and pain
- Hives and rashes
- Persistent eczema
- Trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing
- Sneezing or nasal congestion
- Drop in blood pressure, fainting, weak pulse
- Anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction
With dietary restrictions and preferences on the rise, the term “allergy” is used loosely and sometimes in place of a food intolerance. For example, a gluten intolerance – a serious health issue -, may be called a gluten allergy, but this is not true.
Lab Testing Can Help You Know
It’s important to know the difference between food allergy and food intolerance or other adverse reactions to food and to seek a proper diagnosis and treatment from your doctor. If you or your doctor suspect a food allergy, make an appointment to have a laboratory test to confirm. If a food allergy is confirmed, it is extremely important to continue treatment as recommended by your allergist or a physician trained in interpreting allergy testing and to always carry prescribed medications.
QuestDirect, from Quest Diagnostics, recently launched four food allergy panels that test for common allergens such as eggs, tree nuts, seafood, and shellfish, which cost between $139 to $209 and can be purchased using healthcare flexible spending funds. These allergy panels test for the presence of IgE in the body. Higher IgE antibody levels may mean you have a higher likelihood of having a food allergy. IgE testing is considered by many to be more accurate than an IgG or food sensitivity test. Patients who test positive for IgE (and may have an allergy) through QuestDirect, can find a local allergist via locator tools in their results report, who can confirm their allergy and help develop a treatment plan*. QuestDirect also offers other digestive tests including a gluten intolerance test.
Navigating the Holidays with a Food Allergy or Intolerance
Navigating the holiday season with a food allergy or intolerance can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Once confirmed, it’s easier to plan ahead by informing your host of any food allergies, bringing an allergy-safe host gift or dish and calling a restaurant ahead. Most importantly, you ensure your safety by remembering to always carry your rescue medication just in case of emergency.
For more information on QuestDirect allergy testing visit QuestDirect.QuestDiagnostics.com.
*A positive result alone is not sufficient to diagnose a food allergy. Only an allergist or a physician trained in interpreting allergy testing can confirm a food allergy. Food allergy test results should be compared with the symptoms that are experienced in order to develop a management or treatment plan. We are providing access to an Allergist locator tool for your convenience to assist you in locating a provider in your area. Quest Diagnostics is not affiliated with this locator tool and does not endorse any of the providers. Please note that there may be other allergy providers in your area that are not listed in this tool.
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