An allergy is no trivial matter. You might brush the symptoms of hives and runny nose off as a common side-effects, but an allergy can lead to serious health complications, such as breathlessness or even death.
But the difficult thing about diagnosing an allergy is that the symptoms are often similar and hard to be distinguished. Hence, for a more accurate diagnosis, go for a prick test or blood test, so you can fully eliminate these things from your life.
According to Dr Chew Huck Chin, respiratory medicine specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, some of the common drugs that might cause an allergic reaction include penicillin, aspirin and ibuprofen. Symptoms, which include hives, swelling, fever, vomiting, itchy eyes, abdominal cramps and breathlessness, often occur within the hour of consuming the drug.
While drug allergies are easier to diagnose, simply because you don’t consume it daily and there’s little chance that its derivative is part of your food (like how peanut extract could be part of your meal without you knowing), food allergies are harder to pinpoint, especially if they’re commonly used in dishes. Here are six that you might not know you’re allergic to.
Lactose intolerance and milk allergy are two very different conditions. The former is caused by an enzyme deficiency, which makes you unable to digest proteins in milk. The latter, on the other hand, is caused by an over-reactive immune system towards dairy products. Dr Chew advises avoiding dairy products and substituting it with soy or rice milk, even if you can tolerate dairy products after they’ve been extensively heated.
- Wheezing cough
- Mucus in the nose or lungs
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramps
- Loose stool or diarrhoea that may contain blood/mucus
The most common form of food allergy, shellfish allergies can stem from two main kinds: molluscs and crustaceans. Regardless of which type you’re allergic to, it’s advisable to avoid shellfish altogether, according to Dr Chew.
- Indigestion, stomach cramps or diarrhoea
- Breathlessness and wheezing
- Repetitive cough
- Swelling of the tongue and/or lips, trouble swallowing
- Weak pulse
- Pale or blue colouring of the skin
- Dizziness or confusion
Just because you’re allergic to shellfish, it doesn’t mean you’re allergic to fish – and vice versa. The two don’t come from the same food families. Some of the more common types of fish that people are allergic to include salmon, halibut and tuna.
- Stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting
If you’re allergic to corn, don’t just stay away from corn cobs and kernels – you’re likely to be allergic to corn-derived products (including snacks) or even corn pollen too. However, this allergy is difficult to pinpoint as its symptoms are similar to those triggered by grass pollen and other seeds and grain. The best way to find out if you’re allergic to corn is to eliminate different types of food over a period of time.
- Stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhoea
- Stuffy or runny nose
An egg allergy occurs when one’s immune system becomes sensitised to the protein in egg whites or yolks. While you might have an allergy when you were younger, you might not have it now, as 70% of children with this allergy outgrow it by 16.
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
Peanut / tree nut
Once thought to be lifelong, recent research found that about 20% of those with peanut allergy eventually outgrow it – but that doesn’t mean you should take your chances and buy a pack of nuts to try. Among those who suffer from peanut allergies, up to 40% of them show a reaction to at least one tree nut.
Symptoms for peanut and tree nut allergies:
- An itching sensation around the mouth and throat area
- Runny nose
For more information on allergies, visit Health Plus.