Holiday Fare May Present Problems for People with Food Allergies

November 10, 2014

During the holidays, the very variety and complexity of foods served can make it difficult for someone with a food allergy to know what to avoid and what to try.

And if someone does fall ill after eating holiday fare, pinpointing the culprit can take some real detective work.

Guha Krishnaswamy, M.D., director of allergy and clinical immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center offers these insights on food allergies:

  • Many allergic reactions to food occur within minutes. Among the most common allergens are shrimp, soy, egg, wheat, milk and fish.
  • Not all ill effects are a result of food allergies. Some people, for example, develop migraines after ingesting certain combinations, such as cheese and wine. Known as food idiosyncrasies or intolerances, these reactions can occur in people with no previous history of adverse food interactions.
  • While the primary ingredients in any one dish may be fine, additives, spices and colorings can cause an allergic reaction. 
  • Some people have a condition known as FDEIA (food dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis), which is a severe allergic reaction that is induced by strenuous exercise a few hours after eating a specific food. Wheat and celery have been shown to cause this reaction.
  • Another unusual condition is Alpha-gal Syndrome, an allergy to the sugars in beef, pork and other red meats. Unlike most allergic reactions that happen within minutes, these symptoms don’t occur until hours after eating meat.

“Every person is different and there are so many types of food allergies that it can be really difficult to avoid all allergens over the holidays,” Krishnaswamy said. “If you know you have food allergies, caution should overrule your desire to taste something new, and always carry an EpiPen that is up-to-date.”

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