With allergies or hypersensitivity the body reacts acutely to an external or internal factor that otherwise would not cause that kind of reaction. An allergy is manifested in diverse signs: rhinitis, rash, diarrhoea, itch, breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis and more. Allergies can occur at any age; they limit normal life, worsen the quality of life significantly and may be life-threatening. Hypersensitivity can occur to very many things, such as food, medicines, insect poison, inhaled particles and more.
Food intolerance is not the same as an allergy, although the symptoms may be similar: for example urticaria, digestive issues, headache, nervousness, exacerbation of eczema and more. Food intolerance may be the cause if a food or its component causes signs of disease, but these are not a consequence of an immune response. Food intolerance can very rarely be exceptionally severe, similar to anaphylaxis.
Skin-prick tests and determination of levels of IgE antibodies in the blood are used to establish the cause of an allergic reaction.
For a skin-prick test, various allergen solutions are dripped onto the medial forearm and the surface of the skin is pricked with a sterile lancet. The results of a prick test are assessed in 15-20 minutes. A positive result is reflected by redness and a nodule in the allergen drip spot that dissipates about an hour later.
Elevated levels of allergen-specific IgE antibodies in the blood reflect sensitisation to their allergens. Thus, it is possible to identify a single allergen, which should be avoided. Assessment of sensitisation is done with inhaled allergens screening tests with a variety of food and inhaled allergen mixtures and individual allergen tests. Screening tests provide an answer to whether or not the patient is sensitised to a certain allergen group, but does not precisely specify the patient’s allergy.
Determination of the levels of individual allergen IgE antibodies enables specific allergens to be determined that are a likely cause for a reaction.
If food intolerance or allergies are suspected, contact your family doctor first. The family doctor will determine necessary investigations and assess their results or, if necessary, start treatment or refer you to another specialist for consultation.