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AllergyCare: an introduction to allergies, intolerances and tests we can offer

Allergies are becoming increasingly common. But the reasons for this are not fully understood. Food allergy cases have risen by as much as 50% in the past decade with a 700% rise in hospitalisations due to anaphylaxis. 


But what is classified as an allergy?


An allergy is when the body’s immune system over-reacts to an allergen - something that is harmless to most people. Common allergens include pollen, animal hair, house dust mite, and certain foods. The reaction can range from mild symptoms, like sneezing or itchy eyes, to more severe cases causing anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction affecting the whole body including skin rash, breathing difficulties and collapse.

 

Food allergies and food intolerances are often confused, but they are different from each other. A food allergy involves the body's immune system reacting to a specific protein in a food. In contrast, a food intolerance typically arises from the body's inability to properly digest certain foods, with symptoms include bloating, gas, or diarrhoea. While food allergies require strict avoidance of the allergen and may necessitate carrying emergency medication, managing a food intolerance often involves reducing intake of the offending food to aid digestion.


Having an allergy can really impact negatively on your life, but managing your allergy in the right way can make a big difference.


The first step is knowing what causes your allergy so that you can avoid the trigger. This is critically important for people who get anaphylaxis. But in many cases, complete avoidance may be impossible, in which case it’s all about minimising your exposure and using treatments to reduce the impact.

 

The evolution of allergy testing – safer, quicker, more accurate


The good news is that there are a comprehensive range of tests available to help uncover the cause of your allergies. In skin prick testing, drops of various candidate allergens are placed on the skin and gently pricked with a needle. If you are allergic, then a small red bump will appear and the doctor can interpret this with regards to your likelihood of an allergy. Another way of looking for allergies is with a blood test that links to specific allergic antibodies. These tests allow us to look at more than 300 possible allergens in a single blood sample and produce results that your doctor will interpret and discuss with you.

 

Food intolerances


For food intolerance, the tests are different and may involve blood tests or breath tests. One of the most common food intolerances is lactose intolerance and this can be diagnosed in the clinic using a simple breath test.


Bacterial imbalances in the gut can give rise to similar symptoms to intolerances and this problem can also be diagnosed using breath testing.

 

If you're suffering from an allergy or a food intolerance, get in touch with our Allergy Clinic to see how we can help you. Give us a call on 01481 237757 to book your appointment.

 

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