Food Allergies and Respiratory Symptoms
Last updated: April 2022
I was at a weekend work event that was filled with a day chock full of meetings, strategic planning, and professional development. It began with a 7:00 AM flight and having to leave for the airport at 5:15 AM. I was feeling a bit sleepy by lunch. I had already consumed my snacks and I was super excited about the delicious boxed lunches that had just been brought by the caterer. Yum!
A twinge of concern came across me. Did I confirm that I have special dietary needs and that I needed something that did not have dairy in it? Hmmm... I would have to see what the options were. Hopefully, there would at least be something that I could eat around.
Food allergy or asthma? Similar symptoms:
I have a dairy allergy which results in me having respiratory symptoms. In my case, these respiratory symptoms are primarily wheezing and bronchi contraction. You may be aware that allergy and asthma are very closely related. That being said, not everyone with asthma has allergies and, not everyone that has allergies has asthma.
There are similar cellular processes involved in both food allergies and asthma.1 Our immune systems overreact and release histamines.2 It is the histamines that cause the allergic reaction. Common food allergy symptoms may include red, itchy, watery eyes and nose, sneezing, scratchy or sore throat, and itchy skin. In the case where respiratory symptoms (wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing) are present, it may be difficult to differentiate between an allergic reaction to a food and an asthma attack.2
Dealing with my food allergies
Finally, it was lunchtime and I made my way over to pick up the boxed lunches. There was only one special diet lunch, it was "lactose-free", it was a close second but not quite what I was hoping for. Also, I learned that it wasn't mine. My heart sank. I had to go for a regular lunch.
My lunch had large chunks of cheese that I managed to extract without hopefully contaminating anything, but then I learned that there was another layer of cheese toward the bottom of my salad. Ugh, this was not going well, I was still so hungry, tummy gurgles and all. It looked like I was going to have to abandon the boxed lunch and stick with the fruit bowl and other associated snacks. I had a particularly scary situation early in the year when I unknowingly consumed dairy in an item and I had a significant reaction. I am trying to be more proactive when I am in this particular situation.
Lessons to learn
The lesson I took away from this experience is to ensure that if I can order a special meal, I do. It's crucial to have a backup plan for meals that you have away from your home or that you have prepared yourself.
Although I try to poke around my food, it is best and safest not to eat anything that may have come into contact with any known allergens. Ensure that someone is aware of your allergen in case of a reaction and speak with your doctor about preventative steps or the use of an epi-pen if that is the appropriate treatment prescribed by your doctor.
Have food allergies and asthma been a concern for you? Share in the comments below!
Have you entered our Asthma-Friendly Holiday Gift Giveaway?