Most asthma sufferers are only too aware of the dangers lurking in airborne allergens such as dust mites and animal dander. What is not common knowledge, however, is that food allergens are equally capable of triggering a severe asthma attack, or even causing anaphylaxis. For some asthmatics, common food allergens such as peanuts can trigger a sudden asthma attack. Immediate reactions to certain food allergens can be life threatening and can occasionally result in the onset of anaphylactic shock.
In other asthma sufferers, the symptoms of a food allergy are delayed and develop over a period of time. Sometimes they become apparent only hours after exposure to the food allergen. Although the symptoms are less immediately obvious, a delayed reaction also has serious implications for the asthmatic.
Delayed reactions can, for instance, lead to the development of chronic bronchial asthma. Also, those asthmatics who exhibit delayed reactions to a food allergen tend to develop a more severe and inflammatory type of chronic asthma.
According to the allergy expert, D.G. Wraith, in the report, Recognition of food allergenic patients and their allergens by the RAST technique and clinical investigation, “Food allergy is a very important cause of asthma, but it is often overlooked. It is important because it may cause severe symptoms and asthma still has a high mortality despite improvements in drug therapy.”
In all cases, whether immediate or delayed, the occurrence of one severe reaction to a food allergen (e.g., wheat) puts the asthmatic at greater risk of developing other allergic reactions.
Food allergens can be inhaled and act directly on the lung tissue, or can be absorbed from the digestive tract into the general circulation. Their presence in the bloodstream can trigger a range of symptoms including constriction of the muscles surrounding the airways. This can trigger an asthma attack.
Mild food allergen-induced asthma symptoms:
- mild itching in nose and throat
- general itchiness
- runny nose
- runny and itchy eyes
- rash (either localized or covering the whole body).
More severe symptoms:
- severe swelling of the mouth and throat and sometimes the whole face
- severe swelling of the airways
- severely restricted breathing
- tightness of chest or wheezing
- recurrent earache
- recurrent diarrhea
- onset of anaphylactic shock (this is an emergency, call for immediate medical assistance).
If you are asthmatic and begin to experience a tingling or itching sensation in your mouth or on your lips after eating certain foods, seek medical assistance, immediately.
Common Food Allergens
The severity of many food allergies tends to be related to the amount of the offending food consumed. However, with certain food allergens, the reaction can be immediate and severe if even a small amount is eaten: