Avoiding allergen imperative at all costs

DUBAI — Enjoying a meal out with the family all seems harmless enough, unless, of course, you are one of the thousands of people who suffer from food allergies; in which case it can be lethal.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Tue 16 May 2006, 10:34 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:40 PM

Belhoul European Hospital urges caution, in recognition of International Food Allergy Awareness Week from May 10 to 16. The severity of these allergies and reactions that accompany them can range from mild to extremely serious. An example of the more extreme side of this affliction is given by Dr Marco Labib Anton, General Practitioner at Belhoul European Hospital. “We have seen a number of instances where the patient has gone into anaphylactic shock due to consuming even a minute amount of the offending food, obviously avoidance of the allergen is imperative at all costs, but when dining out it isn’t always easy to avoid contamination from other sources,” he said.

Symptoms of a food-allergic reaction can affect the skin (hives or swelling of the lips, tongue and/or face), respiratory system (shortness of breath and wheezing), gastrointestinal tract (abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting), or cardiovascular system (drop in blood pressure and heart failure). If left untreated, symptoms can be fatal. The main culprits tend to be milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish with 90 per cent of all reactions attributed to these foods. There is no cure for food allergy, however, through careful planning and dietary control, risk can be minimised.

Recommends Jane Darakjan, Dietician at Belhoul European Hospital: “Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to prevent a reaction, this entails carefully reading all food labels and menu ingredients when dining out or at home. There are potentially dangerous allergens in a surprising number of foods, so patients require education and advise on what they can and cannot eat."

Food allergies are particularly prevalent in young children as their immune systems are not fully developed when exposed to potentially irritating foods. However, it is not unusual for these same allergies to develop later in life as a result of enzyme depletion or alteration in the antibody response.

Diagnosis of allergies is essential in determining which foods and combinations of ingredients could prove harmful.

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