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A food allergy or sensitivity is a person's immune system reaction to eating a particular food.
The word allergy comes from two Greek words: alos, meaning "other" and argon, meaning "action." When one has an allergy, he or she has a reaction other than the one expected.
Food allergies and sensitivities are the body's reaction to a specific food. In a food allergy or sensitivity, when the child eats a particular food, (such as eggs, for example) usually by the time the eggs reach the stomach or the intestines, the body reads the presence of eggs as an allergen (something harmful). It sends out immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody, to destroy the eggs and protect the body, releasing histamines. The body remembers and produces histamines every time the food is eaten. These histamines trigger allergic symptoms that affect many areas of the body, particularly the skin, respiratory system, nervous system, and digestive system. Digestive disorders after eating specific foods are not always allergies. These reactions can be food sensitivities or intolerances. They can also be symptoms of other, more serious digestive diseases and malfunctions.
In the United states, 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by wheat, peanuts, nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, soy, and fish. Many other foods can be at the root of food allergies or sensitivities, especially berries and other fruits, tomatoes, corn, and some meats like pork. Migraine headaches have been associated with sensitivities
Usually, when a child is allergic to one food in a food family, he or she will most likely react to other foods in that food family. For example, if a child is sensitive to one type of fish, he or she also may be sensitive to other types of fish. This is called cross-reactivity.
Author Info: Janie Franz, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006
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