Deadly risk from food: Don't underestimate food allergies

Deadly risk from food: Don't underestimate food allergies

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Allergies to food should not be underestimated
The number of people with food allergies (food allergies) has increased significantly in recent years. According to health experts, it is often not easy to find the appropriate allergen. The main triggers of allergies and intolerance include cereals containing gluten, milk, eggs, fish and nuts.

Food allergies are increasing
Food allergies have been increasing for many years. According to estimates by the German Allergy and Asthma Association (DAAB), around six million people are affected in Germany alone. “The main triggers in infants and children are cow's milk, soy, chicken egg, wheat, peanuts and hazelnuts. Adolescents and adults generally react more often to raw vegetables and fruits, nuts, fish, crustaceans and molluscs, ”writes the DAAB on its website. According to the experts, reactions to raw vegetables and fruits occur in combination with a simultaneous pollen allergy. The key word here is “cross allergy”. Hay fever is one of the most common allergic diseases. Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and lactose intolerance (lactose intolerance) are also common. But what about rare food allergies?

Allergic reactions are not limited to individual organs
In the event of an allergy, the body reacts to normally harmless substances from the environment by increasingly producing antibodies against the supposed source of danger. The reaction is not triggered by the whole food, but only a very small part. Allergic reactions to food are generally not limited to certain organs. The most common symptoms are reactions on the skin and mucous membrane, in the ear, nose and throat area, on the bronchi and in the gastrointestinal area. Itchy rash, sneezing, shortness of breath, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting can occur. According to the DAAB, the most severe allergic reaction to food is anaphylactic shock, which manifests itself in the form of a life-threatening circulatory breakdown. The more exotic or rare an allergy is, the more difficult it is for the treating physician to find the causes of the complaints and to work out approaches to treatment.

Is there actually a water allergy?
So-called water allergy seems to be extremely rare, from which 40 people are said to suffer worldwide. According to a report by the internet portal "", sufferers state that contact with water triggers skin rashes and leads to itching and severe pain. "In fact, there is no water allergy," explains Professor Dr. Ludger Klimek, President of the Medical Association of German Allergologists and Head of the Allergy Center Wiesbaden. "This is because our immune system does not recognize water molecules as allergens," says the expert. The term allergy is therefore out of place. However, some people can react particularly violently to contact with water. However, the cause here is often constituents in the water, such as chemical impurities, which cause the reactions. “Knowing that it is not water, but that the person concerned may just have to change the source of the water, takes away the fear of the person concerned,” says the doctor.

"Extreme hypersensitivity of the skin"
Nevertheless, some people complain about problems after showering or bathing. "In most cases, if the skin swells, becomes red or itchy, it is not an allergic reaction but an extreme hypersensitivity of the skin," explains the allergist. The skin of those affected would probably also react to other substances. For example, if the natural protective layer is washed out by the water, redness, burning or drying out can occur. "Here patients can counteract with appropriate care products or special washing additives," says Professor Klimek.

Cow's milk allergy in young children
It is much more problematic when people are allergic to food. In some cases, the overreactions can even be life-threatening. Among other things, cow's milk allergy is known, which can occur in babies after four weeks and is also possible during breastfeeding. It should not be confused with lactose intolerance. Cow's milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in young children. According to “”, the allergy is usually found when breast milk is taken to complementary foods. The child's immune system comes into contact with foreign proteins for the first time after weaning with cow's milk. There is an overreaction and typical allergy symptoms in the digestive tract, on the skin or in the respiratory tract. If the suspicion of a cow's milk allergy is confirmed, the best thing to do without the product. “It is possible and you can live without major restrictions. There are some alternative products with which you can get along well and therefore have to do without little, ”says Professor Klimek.

Nut allergies are difficult to manage
It is less easy for people suffering from a nut allergy. Even the mildest form of peanut and nut allergy can lead to skin rashes, nausea and difficulty breathing, as well as swelling of the tongue and lips. In its most extreme form, however, anaphylactic shock can even be caused, putting the person at risk of life. Because of the sometimes extreme reactions, those affected usually have no choice but to avoid any contact with peanuts and nuts. They also have to carry adrenaline with them in order to counteract it as quickly as possible. However, doing without is not easy because peanuts are processed in a wide variety of foods. In addition, residues of nuts can get into the food during production, which are actually produced without peanuts. "In order to prevent severe allergic reactions and to implement a nut-free diet practically in everyday life, individual nutritional therapy with an allergic specialist is essential," writes the DAAB. The Allergology Action Forum, an association of scientific societies and professional associations, also recommends those affected to seek help from a specialist. If allergies are not taken seriously, this can have far-reaching consequences for those affected, such as severe asthma or chronic skin diseases. In individual cases, anaphylactic shock and even death can occur. (ad)

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