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Myth: You either have mild or severe food allergies
The truth: There are no mild or severe food allergies, only mild or severe reactions. “Reactions are somewhat unpredictable,” explains Joshua Dorn, MD, allergy/immunology fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. That means you can eat a food a few times and have nothing more than a couple of hives, then boom, you might have anaphylaxis—a severe systemic reaction that requires immediate medical treatment. “There have been many reports of people having severe reactions after mild ones,” Dr. Dorn confirms. And anaphylaxis is on the rise: Visits to the ER for a severe allergic reaction shot up a staggering 124 per cent from 2005 to 2014, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
Reactions are tricky to predict because other variables can be in play. Are you sick? Were you exercising? Overheated? Drinking alcohol? Do you have active asthma? Other allergies? They’re all considered “co-factors” that can contribute to a more extreme immune response.
The bottom line: “Any reaction can range from mild to severe so it’s best to be prepared for a severe one,” says Dr. Dorn. And when allergists say “be prepared,” they mean carry two EpiPens or other epinephrine auto-injectors.
Here’s what you should know about the rise of food allergies in Canada!