Food allergies are a big problem for children and adults. The most severe forms can cause death. Food allergies occur when there is an adverse reaction from our immune system to foods that we are eating or drinking. There are proteins, called antigens, on foods that act as a marker to tell our body what food it was. If our immune system has a reaction to a food then it produces a substance called an antibody which then attaches itself to the antigen on the food. This antigen-antibody complex alerts the immune system to come and get rid of the substance that is causing the reaction. An anaphylactic reaction is a severe reaction causing the immune system to over-react to the food being ingested. Symptoms of an allergic anaphylactic reaction may be a tingling sensation, itching, or a metallic taste in the mouth. This may be followed by skin conditions like hives on the body, digestive symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping, breathing symptoms like the sensation of warmth, wheezing or other difficulty breathing, coughing, or swelling of the mouth and throat area. Finally there may be a drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness and even death. Anaphylactic reactions are usually identified in early childhood, causing the patients to carry a special medication needle in case they accidentally eat a food they are allergic to. The most common foods that create this type of reaction are peanuts or tree nuts, and shellfish.
I think it is a wonderful idea to create guidelines to help doctors be more aware of food allergies. In the last 10 years there have been studies that show increases in the amount of allergies that been diagnosed, especially in children-- this is between 10 -12 million people in the U.S. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), developed the new set of standards and a summary of them can be found in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This is the first time these types of guidelines were compiled by working with a number of organizations. The purpose of the guidelines is to help diagnose, test and treat food allergies.