Is It A Cold or Allergies? Part 2

Blood tests. Not everyone is a good candidate for skin testing. For example, people widespread skin conditions such as eczema or those who must take medications, such as antihistamines, that interfere with skin testing may be unable to take skin tests. In such cases, doctors may take a blood sample. This will be checked to see if it contains IgE antibodies (disease-fighting proteins) to a specific allergen or allergens. One such blood test is called the RAST (radioallergosorbent test).

RAST testing is more expensive than skin tests, and it is less sensitive to subtle allergies. Also, it may take several weeks to get the results; with skin tests, the results are available right away. For these reasons, skin tests are preferable in most cases.

Discovering Food Allergies
Figuring out whether or not you have a food allergy is another story. There is a difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy. The difference between an intolerance and an allergy is how your body handles the food in question.

If you have a true food allergy, your body’s immune system sees something in the food — usually a protein — as foreign. It begins to produce antibodies to stop the invasion. This reaction produces symptoms throughout your body. You may get swelling of your lips, stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes the symptoms affect your skin, producing hives, rashes or eczema. Other people develop wheezing or breathing problems.

If you have a food intolerance, you may experience symptoms such as abdominal cramping that are similar to food allergies. However, your immune system isn’t at work fighting off a food allergen. Unlike people with true food allergies, who have to avoid the offending food altogether, you may be able to eat some of it without developing symptoms. However, the amount you can eat may be very small. And unlike allergies, which sometimes get better or go away as people get older, a food intolerance usually gets worse as you age.

If you think you have a food allergy, your doctor may want to focus on the suspected foods by placing you on an elimination diet. Under the doctor’s direction, you won’t eat a certain food suspected of causing your allergy. If your symptoms go away when you stop eating the food and come back when you start eating it again, you’ve found the allergen. An elimination diet can’t be used if your reactions are severe or if they don’t occur frequently.

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