Common Food Allergies and How to Avoid Them

peanut-999921_1280Food allergies have become an increasing health concern in Canada over the years, with as many as 2.5 Canadians suffering from at least 1 common food allergy. The highest incidence of food allergies is found in children.

Below is a look at some of the most common food allergens according to Health Canada:

Peanuts:
The most common food allergy, especially in children, is a peanut allergy (affecting 2 in 100.) Peanut allergies have become so severe that some schools have banned peanuts or products containing peanuts all together, and is considered a “priority” allergen that must be listed on all ingredient labels if manufactured in a facility that also produces products containing nuts. As a result, more and more companies and begun introducing nut and/or peanut-free products that are specifically advertised towards school-aged children such as cookies, crackers and chocolate. Other nut allergens include tree nuts; these include hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts and pistachios.

Milk:
This includes all dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream. Many products contain milk, even in powdered form. It can be found in baked goods, coffee, soup mix, and even tofu.

Seafood:
Clams, scallops, shrimp, and lobster are all common seafood allergies. However, it is important to note that individuals with a seafood allergy are often able to eat certain types of seafood, while having to avoid other types all together. Seafood reactions can be severe, as one does not necessarily need to eat it in order to react to it. The smell of fish is enough to trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals. Seafood can also commonly (but oftentimes unknowingly) be found in salad dressings and sauces.

Soy:
Soy is another common allergen, but one that is not always easy to detect without carefully reading labeling. It can be found in everything from certain foods such as tofu, to candy, chewing gum, and even baby formula.

Sulphites:
An additive that is commonly used to preserve the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, and certain packaged foods. While sulphites are usually safe, they can still trigger allergic reactions and asthma in sulphite-sensitive individuals. If you have a sulphite allergy or sensitivity, it is best to avoid packaged foods and ensure you thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption.

When we think of an allergic reaction, we often think of hives, swelling, or a rash. Anaphylaxis (usually resulting in trouble breathing or swallowing, or other respiratory distress sich as coughing, wheezing ad chest pain/tightness) is another common but serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening, requiring individuals to carry an Epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with them at all times, something that is easily prescribed by family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary. Other signs of an allergy include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, dizziness and headache.

It is important to know that one does not need to ingest a large amount of an allergen in order to develop an allergic reaction, as it only takes a trace amount, so to avoid allergic reactions you should always ensure that you take special precautions. When buying food you should always read the ingredients on the packaging, and when dining out you should forewarn your server so that food can be prepared separate from any potential allergens. Proper hand washing and utensil cleaning is also of the utmost importance when it comes to avoiding food allergies and possible cross-contamination.

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Ways to Combat Spring Allergies

spring allergiesFor many us, spring is a time of the year that we look forward to. That is, unless, you or someone close to you suffers from seasonal allergies. Then, spring can be a dreaded time of year where your thoughts are consumed with simply being able to breathe and the constant fight against the symptoms associated with allergies. At Brentwood Medical Clinic, patients presenting with allergy symptoms (sneezing, congestion, etc.) is something Dr. Ghahary sees quite frequently, especially during this time of year.

Asthma and allergy rates are on the rise across Canada, with mounting evidence that the allergy season now lasts up to one month longer than previously. In addition, parts of Canada that were once too cold for allergy-inducing plants are now seeing more frequent allergy activity. This has been attributed to global warming and the higher temperatures experienced so soon after winters end. It is important for Canadians to plan for allergy season and ensure that both your home and workplace are spring season ready.

allergiesUnlike normal allergic reactions, springtime allergies can appear one season and be gone the next. This is due to the various pollens that make up the irritants in the air changing every year – and while there is nothing we can do about the pollens and other natural pollutants in the air, we can, however, follow some simple steps to gain some relief from the symptoms that are associated with airborne pollutants.

Between home and work, most of us spend the majority of our days indoors. If you control your indoor environment and protect both your home and workplace from airborne pollutants, it is possible to significantly reduce the symptoms associated with allergies. Believe it or not, allergies can often become worse indoors. This is due to the buildup of natural allergy triggers that can occur over multiple seasons.

During the springtime, it is important to ensure that you keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible. While this won’t be possible for everyone, another alternative is to install shade screens. Shade screens are equipped with a fine mesh material and can make a huge difference to the amount of dirt and pollen that can pass through the screen and into your home. It is also recommended that you run your air conditioner during the spring. Circulating the air in your home or office can help filter out any pollen in the air. It is also important to be smart about how you go about your day-to-day activities. Always think about how you can limit your exposure to the allergens that bring about your symptoms. Think about the simple things that you can avoid.

Spring allergies are, for many, unavoidable, and in severe cases can be treated with medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and eye drops.