It is common to have the misconception that food allergies only develop during our childhood. However, there has been an increasing number of older adults being diagnosed with food allergies. Approximately 10 percent of adults suffer from food allergies and the most common ones include tree nuts, peanuts, fin fish, and shellfish. Food allergies can develop during any particular stage of our lives and can be especially dangerous for older adults due to the weakened immunity in the elderly population. As a caregiver, it is important for you to be educated about them to help maintain your loved one’s well-being.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
Food allergy symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe. They are unpredictable and can also be life-threatening. Thus, they need to be taken very seriously.
Mild Food Allergy Symptoms
- Redness of eyes or skin
- Nasal congestion or sneezing
Severe Food Allergy Symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Drop-in blood pressure
- Swelling of lips, throat, or tongue
Avoid All Traces of Allergens
Even a slight trace of food can cause a severe reaction. For instance, if an older adult with a peanut allergy touches an object that previously had come into contact with peanut butter, and then touches their mouth or eyes, they can have an allergy reaction. Always clean surfaces extensively if you suspect any traces of allergens have been on them. If you are getting food from somewhere else, always ask about its full ingredient list. Cross-contamination is also risky and can cause a reaction even if you order a dish that is free of allergens.
Store an EpiPen
EpiPens are a life-saving medication that reduces an allergy reaction by reversing the dangerous decrease in blood pressure, relaxing the muscles in the intestines, stomach, and bladder, as well as the muscles to make breathing easier. Always store EpiPens properly to ensure they maintain their effectiveness.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. Peanut allergy is not the same as an allergy to tree nuts. Peanut allergy has no current cure but it can be prevented by avoiding all peanuts and peanut products. Always double-check ingredients before serving any food to a person with this allergy.
Understand Difference Between Shellfish and Finned Fish
Shellfish are not related to finned fish. A shellfish allergy does not necessarily mean that the person cannot consume finned fish. You can check with your loved one’s physician the exact allergy that they have to help them avoid the correct type of ingredient. Again, always check ingredient labels before preparing their food and ask questions if you are ordering food from external sources. Common ingredients that contain shellfish:
- Fish stock
It is advised by some doctors to also avoid the following:
- Snails (escargot)
For fish allergies, they are instigated by finned fish such as the following:
Finned fish and shellfish are not related. Having one kind of allergy does not mean that your loved one has both allergies. Always check with their physician and understand the difference between the two.