Samitivej warns more Thais at risk of food allergies Failure to get treatment can cause a life-threatening reaction

Food and Healthcare Press Releases Thursday October 11, 2018 13:10
Bangkok--11 Oct--a publicist

According to Samitivej Allergy Institute, the number of Thais at risk from food allergies has surged by 300-400 percent in recent years as a result of lifestyle changes. The risk factors come from good living and more awareness of cleanliness, which have affected the body's immune system and sees it fighting which switch the immune response against food rather than disease. Allergies affect 5 functions of the body and Samitivej recommends that anyone with a suspected food allergy should consult a medical specialist or an allergist as a reaction could be life threatening. Recently, the hospital invited Prof Dr. Hugh A Sampson, a foremost authority on food allergies allergy, to share his knowledge and explain how to prepare for the symptoms of food allergies.

Prof. Emeritus Pakit Vichyanond, Director of the Samitivej Allergy Institute at Samitivej Thonburi Hospital, reveals that the number of Thai people who are at risk of developing food allergy symptoms has risen by 300-400 percent. The hospital sees an average of two patients with food allergy per week compared to just one patient a year in the past. The better life enjoyed by most Thais is a major risk factor and food allergies are today increasingly seen in middle-class, well-off individuals. These people always choose clean restaurants or buy food from stores that meet high production standards. As a result, they suffer from fewer diseases and this affects the immune system, causing it to turn to fighting off food or a substance in food rather than disease and giving birth to an allergic reaction.

"The symptoms of a food allergy are one of the most common health conditions in Thailand from babies to adults. Normally, the 6 common food types causing allergies are milk, eggs, wheat flour, nuts (peanuts, soybeans) almonds and cashew nuts as well as seafood such as shrimp and fish. In Thailand, seafood is considered a major allergen in adults but wheat four can cause severe allergies in children. We often hear about food allergies causing a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis and the peanut allergy has become a critical issue in the United States, Europe and Australia. We often hear about people dying from a peanut allergy because they didn't know that peanuts were an ingredient in the food they ate. In Thailand, there are not so many cases of peanut allergy but the trend is growing," says specialist Dr Pakit.

A food allergy is an abnormal reaction to food triggered by the immune system and occurs soon after eating the allergy-causing food. Children are often allergic to wheat flour due to weak intestinal immunity and the incomplete function of the gastrointestinal system in preventing or fighting antigens as well as incomplete function of enzymes. The flour triggers proteins that stimulate immunity leading to allergic reactions.

Allergies to seafood are the most common among adults, even though they will usually have eaten these allergens since childhood without any negative reactions.
Food allergies produce symptoms that can affect 5 systems: skin, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract and the neurological and cardiovascular systems
With the skin, allergic signs include acute or chronic urticaria, or angioedema (swelling) around the mouth and eyes.
With breathing, signs include rhinitis, congestion in the larynx and trachea, and asthma.
For the gastrointestinal system, allergic signs include itching in the mouth and tongue, abdominal cramps and pain, vomiting and ulcerative colitis, which might cause bloody stools.

With the neurological system, the allergy will cause numbness while with the cardiovascular system, allergic reactions include a drop in blood pressure, which can lead to a life-threatening condition called shock.

"Many people do not understand or are not aware of the danger of food allergies. Most of them think that the symptoms are not severe, just skin rashes or other conditions that won't lead to death. In fact, if the allergy affects more than two body systems or leads to anaphylaxis, death might very well occur. Patients with severe symptoms of a food allergy should seek emergency treatment and diagnosis by a medical specialist."

Prof. Pakit says the best way to ensure proper treatment for food allergies is to undergo diagnostic tests to find out which particular food or foods are causing an allergic reaction.

The Samitivej Allergy Institute at Samitivej Thonburi Hospital has developed two precise diagnostic innovations, one a skin test in which minute doses of food allergen extracts are injected, and the other testing the blood. Blood tests provide more accurate results and also measure the level of allergic conditions.

When the causes of food allergies are identified, the doctor can recommend treatments to reduce symptoms and prevent allergy attacks. One of these treatments is the Oral immunotherapy procedure, which involves feeding the patient tiny doses of the suspected trigger food. The dose of the trigger food is gradually increased forcing the body to up its immunity. This treatment must be conducted under strict medical supervision of a specialist.

Other treatment is a change in lifestyle. Patients should change their eating habits and take care to avoid foods that cause signs and symptoms. People should always carefully check labels for ingredients before eating.

It is also important that food producers indicate clearly on the labels each of the ingredients their product contains, no matter how small the quantity. The major problem is that most patients do not know that the food they just ate contained ingredients to which they are allergic.

The Samitivej Allergy Institute regularly invites leading global allergy organizations and well-known allergists to analyze and share perspectives of allergy symptoms with the aim of developing efficient treatment in Thailand.

The most recent of these guests was Dr. Hugh A Sampson, Chairman of the Icahn Medical School at Mount Sinai Hospital in the United States and a well-known allergist-immunologist, who participated in the 1st International Samitivej Allergy Institute Symposium "Food Allergy: The State of the Art". The event was organized to provide in-depth information about critical trends in food allergies that can cause life-threatening reactions and how best to clear up the public misunderstandings of the symptoms.

The symposium allowed for an exchange of ideas between the global allergist and allergists from the Samitivej Allergy Institute, Samitivej Thonburi Hospital and specialists from all Samitivej Group affiliates.

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