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Allergy FAQ Part I: Frequently Asked Questions on Allergy

Posted Apr 10 2012 3:06pm

This topic is one that I spend the most amount of time explaining to consumers. I will do this post in several parts because it will simply be too long to put all in one post! Secondly, let me make my disclaimer clear: I am not a medical professional nor is my website or cookbook intended to provide medical advice to consumers. You should get your medical advice from a doctor or other licensed medical practitioner. This allergy FAQ is research-based and is designed to help consumers better understand allergies. Allergies can be life-threatening and should be taken very seriously. If you suffer from certain types of allergies, you should be under the care of a medical doctor and carry an Epi-Pen® as directed by your physician. All that aside, let's look at allergies - what they are and the different types of allergies.

What is an Allergy?

Dr. Clemens Von Pirquet first suggested the term allergy in 1906. (Von Pirquet, C. Allergie. Munch Med Wochenschr 52:1457, 1906.) Dr. Von Pirquet used the word allergy to describe an inappropriate reaction to food or other substances that are not typically harmful or bothersome. Hippocrates, the Greek Physician, who is considered to be the Father of Medicine, stated that food would injure some people, but not all people. Hippocrates research and writings are over twenty-five hundred years old, which is important to note since some modern day medical experts want people to believe that allergies are a new phenomenon. What is also noteworthy is that Dr. Von Pirquet's definition of allergy was quite broad - and based on my medical research - it would remain broad until some time around the 1970's or later.

What are the different types of allergies?

Prior to the 1970's, allergies were described as belonging to one of four types of allergy categories: Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV. The discovery of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) around 1966 changed how allergies were categorized. The term IgE stands for Immunoglobulin E, which is a class of immunoglobulins that includes the antibodies elicited by an allergic substance (allergen). A person who has an allergy usually has elevated blood levels for IgE. IgE antibodies attack and engage the invading army of allergens. The E in IgE stands for erythema, which means redness.

Currently, allergies are divided into two broad categories: IgE (Immunoglobulin E) and Non-IgE mediated allergies. IgE mediated allergies are the allergies that produce a symptom immediately or within a short period of time - at the longest a few hours. IgE mediated allergies can cause anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal and therefore must be dealt with in a serious fashion. Non-IgE mediated allergies are often referred to as delayed allergies or sensitivities or intolerances. Non-IgE mediated allergies are typically not life-threatening although they can cause severe symptoms in some people.

IgE mediated allergies can be fatal. Individuals with IgE mediated allergies should see a doctor and carry an Epi-Pen® (epinephrine). Great care and diligence must be used for individuals with IgE allergies. It has been well established in the medical literature that the immediate reaction or IgE allergies represents about 5-10% of food allergies and the delayed reaction or non-IgE mediated allergies represents approximately 90-95% of the food allergies. While delayed or non-IgE mediated food allergies make up the lion's share of food allergies, they receive a minority of the attention from the media.

In Part II, we will look at the symptoms for allergies, testing for allergies and much more! I hope this is helpful to you!





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