Understanding Food Allergies and Allergic Reactions

A food allergy triggers an immune system reaction. When a person is allergic to a specific type of food, the body’s immune system interprets that item as a harmful agent. This sets off a chemical reaction in the body that can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Between six and eight percent of children under age five, and between three and four percent of adults, have food allergies. If you have allergies, it is important to know the foods that trigger a reaction and carefully avoid exposure to those foods.

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This can be tricky when eating out. But restaurants and other business that serve food to the public are expected to take reasonable measures to avoid exposing you to an allergen if you alert the restaurant to your allergy.

A restaurant or other business’s negligence in exposing you to a food allergen may give you the right to bring an injury claim in South Carolina. Call Joye Law Firm to speak with an attorney at Joye Law Firm if this has happened to you or someone in your family.

What is a Food Allergy?

When the immune system senses a harmful substance, it triggers cells to release antibodies to fight the invader in the body. These antibodies are called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Their job is to neutralize the dangerous substance.

If you have a food allergy, the immune system believes that the food product is a harmful substance. People can be allergic to any type of food if their body incorrectly identifies it as a hazard.

There are certain foods that commonly trigger an adverse reaction and that many people are allergic to. Examples of foods that both adults and children are frequently allergic to include:

  • Lobster, shrimp and other shellfish
  • Fish
  • Peanuts, pecans, walnuts and other tree nuts
  • Eggs
  • Wheat (gluten)
  • Poultry

Generally, proteins in these food products trigger an allergic reaction. The allergic reaction is distinct from food intolerance, which simply occurs when a food does not “agree” with someone, causing an upset stomach or other digestive problems.

Food intolerance is not caused by an immune reaction, but instead can occur due to the absence of an enzyme needed to digest a food, food poisoning, celiac disease or sensitivity to additives, such as MSG.

The most important distinction between a food allergy and food intolerance is that you can usually consume a small amount of a food you have an intolerance to without having a serious reaction. With a true food allergy, exposure to even a very small amount of the food triggers the immune reaction, causing serious and even deadly effects.

How a Food Allergy Causes an Allergic Reaction

When you consume a food that you are allergic to, the immune system immediately triggers the cells to release IgE antibodies. If you eat that food again in the future – even a trace amount of it – the IgE antibodies sense that it has been consumed. The antibodies then trigger the immune system to release chemicals into the bloodstream, including histamine.

The chemicals that are released into the body can cause a variety of symptoms that have come to be recognized as allergic reactions. These include:

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Scratchiness or dryness in the throat
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Anaphylactic shock

Allergies can be serious and, in some cases, a person can even die from an allergic reaction.

Knowing what triggers such a reaction is essential. Those with severe food allergies should notify restaurants, as well as other businesses and individuals providing meals. If a restaurant knows you are allergic to a food item and exposes you to it in your meal, you may be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation in South Carolina.

Contact a Food Allergy Lawyer Today

At Joye Law Firm, our attorneys can help food allergy sufferers take legal action if they were harmed by a restaurant’s negligence. Call Joye Law Firm now for a free review of your claim and advice about your legal options.

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